Weeks after Nurse Kaci Hickox’s battles with the government of Maine over enforcement of a quarantine order, her personal predicament serves as something of a microcosm for larger questions about handling the Ebola situation and any other public health emergency in the workplace. Indeed, Hickox’s case puts us on notice that public health emergencies can extend to the workplace as well, with all that implies for both employers and managers.
In case you somehow missed the story, Nurse Hickox returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa only to find herself placed in involuntary quarantine in a tent in New Jersey. While few question whether the government retains the legal authority to impose medical confinement during public health emergencies, some wonder whether the government has gone too far. Others, of course, don’t think the government has gone far enough.
As an employer facing the possibility that workers have been exposed to Ebola, you may find yourself confronting the same conundrum as the government. While the topic has undoubtedly been politicized, it is also potentially very real. How do you protect the safety of your workers without violating their rights?