We addressed the dangers of “snooping” into patient records by hospital workers spurred by incidents of Ebola and Enterovirus D-86 in the U.S. Of course, the workplace challenges created by Ebola, Enterovirus D-86 and other contagious diseases and illnesses in the workplace go far beyond snooping, and far beyond healthcare employers. Employers in all industries are facing dilemmas in which they have to weigh legal standards that are less than clear against the often competing interests of employees who are suspected of having these diseases or illnesses, their co-workers and the businesses’ customers. At the same time, businesses, employers and the public try to sift through the seemingly cryptic, sometimes conflicting, and fast moving guidance from federal and state public health agencies.
Employers need to be thinking about the possibility that they too could be faced with having to make decisions concerning a potentially infected employee. These decisions include those pertaining specifically to the employee’s employment, what to tell other employees, family members, customers and when, and addressing inquiries from the media and public health agencies.
We collaborated with our Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group and our Disability, Leave and Health Management Practice Group to summarize these rules and resources, and plan to collectively communicate more on this topic in the coming days and weeks. Although each situation is different and the circumstances seem to be changing minute to minute, having a basic strategy in place can be instrumental in making prompt, measured decisions.