On October 23, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health revised the Quarantine State List to include: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, and Missouri. Texas was removed from the list. The List as of October 29, 2020 is as follows:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
What Does This Mean for Employers?!
#1…The 14 Day Quarantine is a “Recommendation” Not an Order
DOH Does Not Comment on How Employers Should Handle This Recommendation.
The DOH explicitly states that it will, “not dictate how businesses should implement the Quarantine recommendation.” However, the DOH suggests that businesses review the FFCRA Leave criteria and provide flexible leave and work from home policies that can accommodate the recommendation. The DOH simply says that employers may implement policies and procedures that address the recommendation and that employees “should work with their employers to address any concerns.”
Where an employee traveled to one of the listed states, and is unable to work from home, the DOH is still deferential to the employer. The DOH simply says that the “employees should work with their employers about leave and pay issues related to COVID-19 Quarantine absences.”
Where an employee traveled to one of the listed states, and the employer requires the employee to go to work, the DOH is again deferential to the employer by stating that it will not “dictate how businesses should implement [the] recommendation.” The DOH does however states that the employee “may review the paid leave eligibility provided for the FFCRA.”
#2…Businesses that are Life Sustaining Businesses Have a Little More Freedom
The DOH provides some wiggle room for employers when it says that Life Sustaining Businesses (LSB), as defined by the Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCED), must “carefully consider how this recommendation may impact their delivery of services.” If a business has been deemed an LSB, that could affect how the business wants to handle travel to other states.
#3…Healthcare Employees Must Follow Internal Employer Policies that are guided by the CDC and the Commonwealth
Next, the DOH says for healthcare workers, should follow internal policies that should be informed by the CDC Guidance and the PA Guidance. Businesses should consult with counsel when making this designation of whether they are a healthcare provider.
With all of that being said, Employers who are going to acknowledge the Quarantine State List, which is always prudent, employers should keep the following in mind:
#4…Employers Should Evaluate Employees’ Interactions that Occurred in the State with High COVID Numbers
The DOH states that “traveling to another state” occurs any time a person crosses into another state via: Air travel, public transit, personal vehicle, or ride share taxis, and interacts with individuals in that state.
The DOH does not make the quarantine mandatory, but rather says when considering whether to quarantine, the individual must assess the types of behavior that occurred in that state. The DOH goes on to say that when an individual must commute to and from work in a state that has high numbers of COVID-19 cases, must limit additional stops or interactions in those states. The employee must assess the level of risk involved in that travel. Employees should evaluate factors such as:
- Whether the locale practiced social distancing
- Individuals in the state wore masks
- Whether the individuals practiced hand hygiene
- Whether the employee ate inside of a restaurant in the state,
- Whether the employee attended a gathering that does not enforce mask wearing or social distancing.
#5…So What Can Employer’s do?!
Employers can handle domestic travel any way that they want. (See my previous blog on International Travel.) It would be prudent for employers to assess the employee’s interaction and exposure while traveling outside of Pennsylvania.
This inquiry could come in the form of a standard Employee Screening Form. This form could include questions for employees who have traveled to the “Quarantine States.” It would be a good practice for each employee to complete the questionnaire upon return from travel. If the employee practiced social distancing while in a “Quarantine State,” then the employer can document this and feel comfortable about bringing and employee back to work. If the employee did not practice social distancing, then it would be prudent to have that employee stay home.
As always, employers must stay up to date with respect to laws and regulations and guidance that continue to come from all levels of government. As we enter into the colder months, it is imperative that employers have strong policies in place.
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