News sources recently reported that one of the Dallas nurses infected with the Ebola virus visited a retail establishment before boarding a plane from Cleveland to Dallas. Since then, retailers and customers have been concerned about Ebola in the retail environment.

In addition to issues concerning customers’ fears of contraction, Ebola presents a variety of labor and employment law issues for retailers. These issues include: whether to restrict work-related or even personal employee travel to areas affected by Ebola; how to deal with employees returning from travel to areas affected by Ebola, including whether it is permissible to require them to stay home for a period of time or submit to a medical examination; and how to address concerns, or even a refusal to work, by employees who are afraid of working with co-workers or interacting with customers who may be suspected of having come into contact with Ebola through travel or otherwise.

As concern about Ebola continues to rise and the busy holiday shopping season has not yet started, now is a good time for retailers to prepare themselves on how to handle any issues that may arise in the workplace from the perspective of the retailer, the employee, and the customer. Retailers concerned with Ebola, or with pre-pandemic planning more generally, may find the following resources useful in preparing and implementing policies:

  • Maria Greco Danaher provides a comprehensive guide for employers in her October 13 blog post, “The Employer’s Reference Guide to Information About Ebola.”
  • In their October 3 blog post, “Ebola: Emerging Concerns for Healthcare Facilities and Employers,” Michael Oliver Eckard and Jean Kim provide a thorough explanation of the Ebola virus in the United States and the outbreak in West Africa, and they provide tips for employers on addressing Ebola concerns at work.
  • On October 22, 2014, and October 29, 2014, Ogletree Deakins will be conducting two webinars on Ebola in the workplace. In “Ebola and Employers: The Law To Know, The Plans To Make,” retailers can expect to learn about which employees are at the highest risk for exposure to Ebola, how to educate employees and address their concerns about Ebola, what to do if an employee has been exposed, and what to do when employees or their family members have recently traveled to high risk areas in West Africa. The webinar will also cover retailers’ considerations under the relevant applicable laws, namely the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.



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Ogletree Deakins is a retail industry leader with clients ranging from brick-and-mortar retailers to online merchants, and small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations. We represent companies in a range of retail sectors, including but not limited to: discount stores, department stores, luxury retailers, home goods and specialty stores, home improvement centers, grocers, pharmacies, online retailers…

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