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COVID 19 Legal Alert: Ohio's Travel Advisory and What It Means to Your Workforce

Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A.

As you like know, in late July, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) issued a recommendation that Ohioans not travel to COVID-19 “hot spots” as determined by the ODH. In short, and to review, Ohioans returning from travel to states reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher for COVID-19 are recommended – not required –  to self-quarantine for 14 days, and this recommendation applies to both personal and business travel.  Again, this is an advisory, not a mandate, so the 14-day self-quarantine is recommended but not required.

For employers, this has created a host of problems given the fact that many of their employees have already made travel and vacation plans which take them to the hot spots.  In fact, many employees were actually in these hot sport states when the advisory was announced and, wit h a new list of states published weekly (on Wednesdays), it is likely that such scenarios will happen again and again so long as the advisory is active.  The most recent version of the Advisory can be found thru this link (or copy and paste into your browser) at:

https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/families-and-individuals/covid-19-travel-advisory/covid-19-travel-advisory

Employers are handling this advisory in a number of ways from ignoring the recommendation as applied to its employees to requiring all employees returning from these hot spots self-quarantine for 14 days.  As an employer, you are permitted to:

  • Ask your employees to disclose  where they plan to travel, even if the travel is for personal reasons. 
  • Although not a mandate, you can require your employees returning from a hot spot to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to work. 
  • You can require employees to use available paid leave for the quarantine or take an unpaid leave during the self-quarantine 
  • You can (and likely should) develop a policy outlining your expectations in light of the advisory and explain the ramifications of travel to hot spots, either as identified now, at the time the travel commences or during their travel including the unplanned use of paid leave and possible unpaid leaves of absence.  
  • Given the current travel advisory, you should not ask your employees to travel to designated hot spots for business unless absolutely necessary.

In short, if your company plans to require or suggest employees to self-quarantine in deference to the travel advisory, develop a policy which clearly explains your approach to the advisory and what the employees should know upon returning from such travel.  You may also want to explain that because this is an advisory and not a mandate, employees will not be able to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA when self-quarantining.  However, if the State of Ohio, or any counties or cities within Ohio, later convert this to a mandatory self-quarantine, EPSL would be available to these employees.

If you have any questions regarding the travel advisory and its effect on your business and its employees, or any other COVID-19 related challenge, please contact Attorney Michael J. Bogdan (mbogdan@kwgd.com)  or any other member of the Labor and Employment Section at Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty at 330.497.0700.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.

 
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