New York, New Jersey and Connecticut continue to identify states that are experiencing large outbreaks of COVID-19. These states either advise or require travelers entering from one of the identified states to quarantine for 14 days. This quarantine applies to both out-of-state visitors coming into one of the Tri-States and to residents who have traveled to an impacted state and are returning home.
Recently, the CDC revised its travel guidelines and no longer recommends quarantining after travel. As a result of this conflict in guidance, we have been receiving many questions from employers who are concerned about what the quarantine requirements mean for their business.
Below are questions and answers to some of the more commonly asked questions we have received. If you have concerns not addressed below, please contact HDRB&B’s Employment Department Chair Heather Adelman at firstname.lastname@example.org or the HDRB&B attorney with whom you normally work.
TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS BY STATE
Q. I understand that my state has identified high-risk states. Now that we are back in the office and people are making vacation requests, what can I do if someone is planning to travel to one of those states?
A. The best way to address this is to discuss the quarantine requirements with your employees and ensure they understand that they will need to comply with the quarantine if they visit one of the high-risk states. You can highlight that they may need to use additional paid time off to cover the quarantine period, as discussed below.
Q. Can I tell employees they are not allowed to travel to those states?
A. We do not recommend making a blanket rule against traveling or telling your employees that they cannot travel to these states. We recommend that you explain the quarantine requirements to your employees and explain what paid and unpaid leave options they will have available to them upon return.
Q. How can I address staffing concerns as a result of the required quarantine time?
A. In many workplaces, time off requests are reviewed and approved with an eye to available staffing and coverage. When reviewing time off requests, consider whether a quarantine period will need to be built into the schedule and whether other employees will be able to cover the extended absence.
Q. Am I required to pay employees for their time quarantined?
A. First, consider whether your employee is able to work remotely during the quarantine period. If not, whether you will need to pay them may depend on the nature of your business and whether your employee has previously used paid sick leave under the FFCRA.
- As a reminder, the FFCRA provides up to two weeks of paid sick leave – in addition to leave available under applicable state leave law or company policy – for individuals to quarantine if they have been exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms, or are required to quarantine by a medical provider or governmental order.
- The FFCRA contains some exceptions, including for employers that are medical providers, and employees are only entitled to two weeks of this leave.
- If they have already used all or some of the two weeks, either for themselves or for caring for someone else, employers are not required to provide additional leave.
- Employers are able to seek a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for amounts paid to employees under the FFCRA.
Connecticut and New York have issued mandatory quarantine orders while New Jersey’s travel quarantine is advisory. Employers in New York and Connecticut should consider the travel restrictions in determining whether FFCRA emergency paid sick leave is available for employees returning from travel. Employers in New Jersey may need to require a note from a health care provider to ensure tax credits will be provided for such leave. Please contact us for individualized advice on these questions.
Note: You can require that your employees use any remaining paid time off, either vacation or sick, or take the time unpaid.
Q. Can I ask my employee to be tested when they return so they can get back to work faster?
A. In general, employers may require a negative test and note from the employee’s healthcare provider prior to allowing an employee to return to work following sickness or exposure. Click Here for HDRB&B’s Re-Opening FAQs for Employers. With respect to travel, employees can voluntarily submit to testing; however, even with a negative test, employers may still require their employees to comply with the full 14-day quarantine period regardless of a test result based on the applicable executive order, since the employee may remain in an incubation period during all or part of that time.
Please note, however, that recent guidance from New York permits individuals traveling to “test out” of the quarantine period. In order to qualify for this exemption to the requirement, an individual who was in another state for more than 24 hours must obtain a test within three days of departure from that state. They must quarantine for three days in New York. On the fourth day, they should obtain another test. Provided that both tests return negative results, the individual does not have to complete the entire 14-day quarantine period.
Q. Our employee is not traveling but someone in their home is traveling or returning from travel. Is the employee required to quarantine?
A. No. According to current guidelines, only the individual traveling needs to quarantine. However, if your employee begins experiencing symptoms, or if their family member tests positive, employers should refer to existing workplace protocols and consider having the employee refrain from coming to the workplace.
QUESTIONS? If you have questions or concerns not addressed above regarding out of state travel or for employees or FFCRA, or any other employment law related questions, please contact HDRB&B’s Employment Department Chair Heather Adelman at email@example.com or the HDRB&B attorney with whom you normally work.