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Quarantine and Isolation: Selected Legal Issues Relating to Employment

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The emergence and rapid spread of a new avian influenza virus (H5N1) and its potential for causing a human influenza pandemic have given rise to issues relating to the use of quarantine and isolation. Questions relating to employment are among the most significant issues, since, if individuals fear losing their employment or their wages, compliance with public health measures such as isolation or quarantine may suffer.

Although the common law doctrine of employment-at-will, which allows an employer to terminate an employee from employment for any reason other than those prohibited by statute, is generally applicable, there is an exception to this doctrine for public policy reasons. This report examines the employment-at-will doctrine, possible application of the public policy exception in the case of a potential influenza pandemic, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and possible application of the nondiscrimination mandates of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The report will be updated as developments warrant.