One question that has arisen regarding this outbreak is can employers be liable if their employees contract the coronavirus? The Occupational Safety and Health Act has a general provision requiring employers to provide a safe working environment for its workers. That provision requires employers to provide a place of employment which is free from “recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” See OSHA website here. OSHA has not released specific coronavirus standards, yet. It is clear the COVID-19 virus is apparent enough today that the employer’s general duty will apply.

Employers should follow general advice from The Center for Disease Control and from OSHA regarding the coronavirus. The latest guidance from the CDC recommends working from home when possible and avoid gatherings of more than ten people. Workers should sit or work six feet from each other.

For businesses that are open, the employers can request additional information from employees about their health status, if they are showing symptoms. The employer can require the worker to stay home if s/he shows symptoms. One law professor says an employer could become liable if the employee can show s/he contracted the virus at work. That would, however, be a difficult showing, since the coronavirus has become so ubiquitous. See ABA Bar Journal report here for more information.

As we used to say in Iraq, Be Safe.