COVID-19: Employee Travel Considerations
The COVID-19 pandemic has required employers to continuously review how they can adapt their business operations to keep their employees and customers safe. An increasingly important item to consider is employee travel, whether for personal or business needs. Below are answers to common concerns regarding employees traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic for personal and/or business reasons.
Employee Personal Travel
Employers can’t prevent their employees from taking personal trips during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to the EEOC, employers can ask employees about personal travel history and future plans. If an employer is making such inquiries, travel information must be requested from all employees, and the inquiry must be considered a business necessity. If the employee returned from an identified high-risk location, employers could ask about potential COVID-19 exposure. Furthermore, after an employee returns from a high-risk area, a 14-day self-quarantine period can be requested.
Employee Business Travel
Employers should ensure that any employee travel for business reasons is considered essential. Generally, employers should discourage travel and make any travel optional. Employers should also consider requiring advance management approval and documenting in writing that any employee who agrees to travel is doing so voluntarily. Of course, any employee exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should be prohibited from traveling for business reasons.
Employers who require employees to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic might need to defend that decision eventually. Possible risks of employers having employees travel during the COVID-19 pandemic include Worker’s Compensation claims, discrimination claims, and whistleblower/retaliation claims if an employee raises questions about safety and subsequently faces an adverse employment action (termination, non-promotion, reduced hours, etc.).
If an employer has employees travel for business reasons during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are some precautions employers can enforce to protect their employees and their business. The employer should provide any CDC suggested personal protective equipment (PPE). Second, employers should review what vendors are utilized, including airlines, car rentals, and hotels, to identify preferred vendors with the highest safety protocols. Employers can also review employee travel locations, and share any state and local orders ahead of their travels. When an employee returns, the employer should consider whether the employee will be allowed back into the workplace or spend time in self-quarantine.
RBN CAN HELP
As federal, state, and local safety requirements and recommendations change frequently, RBN is a resource for you and your company for regular updates. Additionally, RBN can help your organization implement safety protocols that work best with your business needs.