Measles in the workplace: What should employers do?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), from January 1 to May 31, 2019, 981 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 26 states. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the United States since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. Pennsylvania and Delaware are among the states with reported measles cases during this time frame. With these public health concerns in mind, employers should be prepared for the appropriate response in the event that an employee is diagnosed with measles.
If an employer learns that someone in the workplace has measles, it should immediately send the worker home and tell him or her not to return until cleared by a qualified health care provider. The employer should offer the employee leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or other leave options, as applicable. If the employee does not have paid time off available, the employer should work with him or her to find a way to limit any further exposure to coworkers during his or her recovery by working from home or taking unpaid leave. The employer also should notify the local health department and follow its recommendations.
While the company likely will want to inform workers about possible exposure, the employer should exercise caution, due to privacy concerns. The employer should not identify the diagnosed individual, even if he or she has self-identified as having the disease. Instead, an employer can advise employees that someone who was present in the workplace was diagnosed with measles and that the company is aware and is following recommended medical guidelines. The employer should provide employees with information about the disease, including steps employees can take to reduce the chances of infection. For example, the employer can:
- Provide employees with information about measles, including symptoms and incubation period. The CDC’s website is a useful resource.
- Encourage workers to speak to their health care providers about their own vaccination or past-exposure status. This is of particular concern for those who are pregnant or immunocompromised.
- Inform employees about how and where to get vaccinations.
- Remind workers that members of their household may have been indirectly exposed.
Employers should consult with experienced human resources professionals and/or labor and employment counsel when in doubt about the appropriate course of action. For MEA members, the Hotline and a Member Legal Services attorney are available to provide this assistance.
About the Author
Amy McAndrew is MEA’s Director of Member Legal Services and has over twenty years of experience as a labor and employment attorney.