Tags: Measles | Job | illness | workers

The Legalities of Measles on the Job

The Legalities of Measles on the Job

By Tuesday, 12 April 2016 06:46 AM Current | Bio | Archive

When an outbreak occurred at Disneyland in California and reportedly spread to six other states, measles resurfaced in the news.

The thought of droplets remaining in the air and in a contagious state for up to two hours reportedly caused a scare.

That’s because measles is spread by contact with droplets from the nose, throat and mouth of an infected person, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

“An infected person is contagious for four days prior and four days after the appearance of a rash,” said Bob Byrnes, director of risk management with the Alcott HR Group, a human resources provider in New York. “Most people think that you can get measles only from direct contact with an infected person who is displaying symptoms.”

By requiring workers to be vaccinated, concerned employers who mean well face a patchwork of federal and state laws that can put them at legal risk.
“The simple truth is that in most cases an employer can mandate vaccines but just because you can does not mean you should,” said Audrey Mross, an employment attorney with Munck Wilson Mandala in Dallas. “The consequences of that mandate are possible legal action ranging from religious accommodation to privacy violations.”

The Alcott HR Group receives at least one question a week about vaccinations from employer clients seeking advice about measles and other contagious disease.

"They're asking if they can require their workers to be vaccinated or whether it’s legal to inquire about whether an employee’s child has been vaccinated,” Byrnes told Newsmax Finance.

Lacking clear guidance from regulators, employers are wise to tread lightly even if only asking workers whether they or their family members have been vaccinated.

“Employers do not want to be in the business of forcing healthcare decisions on their employees,” said Laura Seng, an R.N. and attorney who is chair of the healthcare department with Barnes & Thornburg law firm in South Bend, Indiana.

“A universal vaccination requirement policy would cause employers to not only invade the privacy of their employees and bear the administrative and financial burden of vaccination compliance but also places them at risk for a negligence lawsuit if an unvaccinated employee transmitted an illness to another worker or customer.”

While the current focus is on measles vaccinations, the approach is the same for other infectious diseases such as TB and the flu.

“Without clarity in the legal landscape, a better course of action is to advise workers to stay home if they know they have been exposed to or are currently infected with a contagious disease until the risk of spreading it to others has passed,” Mross told Newsmax Finance.

Employers are wise to re-visit paid time off policies so that ill workers do not feel compelled to work for economic reasons. “Workplace policies should be science-driven based on actual risks and individualized to the specific workplace,” Seng told Newsmax Finance.

Juliette Fairley is an author, lecturer and TV host based in New York. To read more of her work, Click Here Now.

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When an outbreak occurred at Disneyland in California and reportedly spread to six other states, measles resurfaced in the news.
Measles, Job, illness, workers
Tuesday, 12 April 2016 06:46 AM
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