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Coronavirus has employers examining policies around employee illness

Patrick Moussignac
Updated: March 03, 2020 11:38 AM
Created: March 02, 2020 06:26 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Hundreds of local companies are getting prepared for the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak. Many of them seeking legal advice on what to do if large numbers of employees are too sick to come to work.

News10NBC talked to an attorney that specializes in labor and employment cases. 

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These companies are all different sizes and are starting to think about what to do if the worst-case scenario happens. This infectious disease now has a chance to spread across the country.

We've seen it already happen in Asia. 

Thousands of factories and businesses were forced to close for weeks at a time. 

Here in the Monroe County area, many companies are seeking legal advice from attorneys like Kim Harding from Nixon Peabody.

"We're really are encouraging employers to think long term as far as the imminent staffing needs versus what a long term exposure for a company could look like," Harding said.

One thing she says companies should first start by reviewing the policies they already have in place. 

"Paid leave, sick leave policies all should be updated and looked at very extensively," Harding said. "What can be rescheduled, or balanced. What alternatives are there? Looking at work from home policies so that employees can stay home, and not infect others in the workforce."

Another major area of concern falls on employees who typically travel abroad on business trips.

"If on the other hand the employer is requiring and employee to travel to a high-risk area where the World Health Organization has said is highly infected with the disease, they're probably OSHA standards that would come into play, or other violations that may create legal risk," Harding said.

News10NBC also asked her what if a sick employee is at work, and begins to infect other employees? 

Harding replied, "An employee just coming into work and infecting others is unlikely to lead to legal risk."

To put things in perspective, her law firm, Nixon Peabody has several offices in Asia, and their Asia-based employees are currently working from home.


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