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What Should Employers Do When a Worker Tests Positive for COVID-19?

August 01, 2022 10:58 AM | Anonymous

Employers with workers who test positive for COVID-19 should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including its guidelines on quarantining and isolation, to minimize safety and legal risks, even though the guidance is somewhat complex.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) looks to the CDC as a source of guidance on what employers should do to keep workplaces safe, noted Jonathan Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia and New York City. "OSHA could conclude that failure to comply with CDC guidance on isolation and quarantine violates OSHA's general duty clause," he said.

Further, to the extent that an employer's failure to comply with OSHA guidance results in employee anxiety or fear, this could contribute to the risk of union activity, he added. "Union activity is accelerating, and health and safety is definitely a union-organizing issue," Segal said.

In addition, an employee could bring a personal injury claim if the individual contracts COVID-19 at work due to close contact with an employee who should have been out of work based on CDC guidance. "While workers' compensation should bar the claim, the answer may vary from state to state," he said. "At a minimum, there is the cost and reputational risk of ugly litigation."

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