Employee is returning from Nigeria: Can we request she stay out of the office for 21 days? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Employee is returning from Nigeria: Can we request she stay out of the office for 21 days?

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Q. We have an employee traveling to Nigeria for a family gathering. Even though Nigeria is Ebola-free at this time, we are considering requesting that she stay out of the office for 21 days upon return to eliminate panic among employees. Due to the nature of her job, she cannot work from home. Do we legally need to pay her for this time? — Carol, Florida

A. I am not sure a 21-day quarantine would be reasonable for this employee in your particular workplace. But if you require her to stay home, paying her for the time missed would be a reasonable step to ensure that she is not negatively affected by your decision, especially if you conclude the decision is for your benefit (i.e., to eliminate panic) and not because she poses a real danger.

In addition, it may be helpful to spend some time educating your workforce about the risks of the Ebola virus. And remember, under the ADA, employers can make inquiries into medical conditions only where the inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity. Because there are no restrictions on international travel to Nigeria or other countries at this time tied to the Ebola virus, and because the risk of transmission is very low, requiring a medical examination for returning travelers would likely not be considered a necessity.

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