Employment Issues

Today, we will provide you with a few things to keep in mind as an employer while navigating through these uncertain times of Covid-19.
We will continue to keep you informed. Please do not hesitate to contact our attorneys for any legal matters as they arise.

1.    Is it legal to ask an employee to work from home or leave work if they show signs of infection?
An employer can ask an employee to seek medical attention and get tested if they present with symptoms for COVID-19. Similarly, an employer may require an employee to go home if the employee displays COVID-19 symptoms.
2.    What should an employer do if an employee tests positive of COVID-19?
Ask the employee that tested positive to identify any individuals who worked in proximity (three to six feet) of them in the past 14 days.
Further, send any employee who may have come in contact with the infected employee home for 14 days to stem any spread of the virus. Do not identify by name the infected employee because you could risk violating confidentiality laws.
Suspected but unconfirmed COVID-19 cases should be treated in the same way – as a “confirmed” case when evaluating which employees should be sent home, but also communicate with those employees that they may have been exposed to an employee showing symptoms that suggest a COVID-19 diagnosis.
3.    What should an employer do if an employee, after interacting with clients, customers, and vendors, tests positive for COVID-19?
An employer should follow the recommendation presented in #2. Further, the employer should communicate with clients, customers, and vendors that came into close contact with the employee, informing them of a suspected case.
4.    Does an employer have a duty to report suspected or confirmed cases of an COVID-19 among its employees?
No, an employer does not have any obligation to report a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19—as the healthcare provider diagnosing the positive test is a mandatory reporter to the CDC.
5.    Can an employee refuse to come to work out fear of being infected with COVID-19?
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employees are only allowed to refuse to work if they believe they are in imminent danger. Imminent danger includes any conditions or practices on the job where a danger exists and can reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated. Employees are generally protected against discipline or discharge for engaging in such activity.
Kristin Whalen, Attorney (NC) | BridgehouseLaw LLP
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Reinhard von Hennigs