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Arent Fox LLP has created a multi-disciplinary legal team that is counseling clients on legal issues stemming from the evolving Ebola virus in the United States.

Darrell Gay
Darrell Gay

The group is composed of leading lawyers from a number of the firm’s signature practice areas, including and OSHA. The working group is sharing information and establishing best practices for clients, businesses, and governments who are responding to workplace issues. It includes Labor & Employment partner Darrell S. Gay, Health Care partners Lowell C. Brown and Jill A. Steinberg, Insurance & Reinsurance partner Elliott M. Kroll, and OSHA partner Mark S. Dreux.

In particular, the attorneys are addressing questions that involve labor and employment, workplace safety, business interruption, public health, and insurance liabilities surrounding a disease that places caregivers in a situation where a minor error can be lethal. Those issues include:

  • What are the obligations of an employer to ensure the safety of its employees during the period this disease is active?
  • If an employee is ordered quarantined by the government, does an employer have any restrictions as to how they treat the employee’s absence?
  • If management learns that one of its employees was exposed to an environment where Ebola was present, can the employee be ordered to stay home? If so, for how long?
  • How does an entity respond to an employee’s refusal to work with a client or another employee who is suspected of having been exposed to Ebola?
  • Is there a duty to negotiate with a union about any protocols that an employer decides to implement in response to the concerns of Ebola in the United States?
  • Do your insurance policies provide adequate protection for the company? Is that true of your liability plan, business interruption coverage, workers’ compensation coverage, and health plan?
  • Do any of your policies contain an exemption for biological events or contagious diseases?
  • How can past experience with other significant events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy inform in responding to issues that stem from the Ebola virus?
  • If you are a hospital or other caregiver, how will you approach the creation of “containment units” for patients awaiting transfer to a health facility fully equipped to deal their condition?
  • What legal concerns arise from the need to teach personnel how to use personal protective equipment (PPE), i.e. hazmat type suits?
  • If you are asked to provide information on an employee or a client relating to their health, are you permitted to provide it? Are there restrictions and what are they? Are there any exceptions to any restrictions?

In an effort to continue to address critical questions and help clients stay in front of arising issues, Arent Fox will be holding a live panel discussion centred around the Ebola virus in its New York office on November 12, 2014.