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March 20, 2020

Germs, Employers and the Law

By: Miriam Brooks, Attorney in the Fort Lauderdale office where she assists in handling matters related to Employment and Labor Law.

As of March 19, 2020, according to the Florida Department of Health, there are three hundred and ninety-three (393) confirmed cases of COVID-19 amongst Florida residents. There have been nine (9) deaths. Employers should be cognizant and wary as to potential claims under the Florida Civil Rights Act, OSHA, Title VII, Age Discrimination, FMLA, Worker’s Compensation Claims and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Nevertheless, employers should be aware of a favorable 2019 opinion issued by the Eleventh Circuit.

EEOC v. STME, d.b.a. Massage-Envy-South Tampa, 938 F. 39 1305 (11th Cir. 2019) may provide some guidance. The employee made travel arrangements to Ghana to visit her sister. The employer told her that if she traveled to Ghana, she would be fired because of the Ebola virus. The employee proceeded with her travel plans. The employee returned and did not contract the Ebola virus; yet, she was not permitted to keep her bookings.

The EEOC claimed that she suffered disability discrimination because of the right to be reasonably accommodated; and the right to associate with disabled persons. The Eleventh Circuit did not extend “regarded as having a disability” because at the time the employee was fired, she did not have a disability or a perceived disability.

The Court stated that predisposition to developing an illness is not a physical impairment. Furthermore, the associational disability claim failed because the employee did not plausibly allege that the employer knew that Plaintiff had an association with a specific disabled person. Lastly, the court held that since Plaintiff did not have a disability or perceived disability, she was not protected under the ADA and did not require reasonable accommodation.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide you with general information regarding the impact of a potential or actual coronavirus pandemic. The contents of this article are not intended to provide specific legal advice.

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