When the pandemic first hit hard in the United States—a lifetime ago, early March—we focused on travel from China, then South Korea, then Italy and so on. Our focus was on the quarantine of employees who had engaged in international travel.
International travel is now a beautiful part of what feels like ancient history and among our hopes for the future. But it is not a material issue now relative to COVID‑19 transmission in the United States.
Indeed, now there are restrictions in other countries when it comes to travelers from the U.S. But it goes further than that: a number of states recommend and/or require the quarantine of individuals who return from visiting certain states in the U.S. where infection (and hospitalization) rates soar.
Among the four (4) most recent states to enact “travel” rules are Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Check out their rules:
In each state, there is also guidance on the scope of the rules. And, even if the rules include only recommendations, the failure to comply with the recommendations may have human and legal consequences.
Employers are well-advised to consider these new travel “rules” relative to:
Should employees be told that, if they visit California, North Carolina, Florida or Texas (or any of the other states on the growing lists), they will or may be subject to a quarantine of at least 14 days upon return to work? I say “at least” because the time out of work after vacation may be longer than 14 days if the employee becomes sick and the quarantine becomes an isolation.
- Sales and other business meetings
Should employers require high-level approval before they travel to designated hot spots? If the meeting truly needs to occur in person, has the employer thought through what the quarantine consequences may be?
Most employers screen their on-site employees daily. Should employers add to their screening a question about return from travel from certain states? If not, why not?
Among the other considerations, two (2) additional points to keep in mind:
- Do you pay the employee if he or she is subject to a quarantine following return from a designated state? Your answer may differ if the travel is for vacation or work. Keep in mind that, under some circumstances, the FFCRA may kick in.
- In communication, focus on the impact of return as opposed to restricting where someone may go. New York, for example, has a law that generally protects off duty conduct. Respond to it but don’t prohibit it.
Stay safe and stay well.
This article is not legal advice, should not be construed as applying to specific factual situations or as establishing an attorney-client relationship.