H1N1 Flu Outbreak: Important Things to Know and Do – NOW

April 30, 2009

Given the widespread presence of the H1N1 virus in several countries, the CDC declaration of a public health emergency in the USA and the WHO position suggesting that a pandemic is imminent, public health officials, businesses and others should now focus on disease response and mitigation.

Some of the legal issues that businesses should address when preparing emergency plans or policies or when actually responding to a pandemic include:

  • Your legal duties and leeway under Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and other federal and state regulatory hurdles.
  • Your ability to require workers to submit to medical tests, wear protective equipment, or take time off. Relevant legal issues in buying and distributing antiviral drugs or protective equipment.
  • Your ability to announce information within the business or publicly on suspected or verified cases among workers.
  • Potential impacts to your benefit programs and related fiduciary obligations.
  • Options and obligations should your customers or suppliers fail to perform their contracts or you believe they are likely to fail.
  • Options and obligations should your business become unable to perform its obligations.
  • Required disclosures to regulatory agencies or to prospective investors.
  • Options and obligations should government orders impose isolation, quarantine, travel or other restrictions that affect your business.
  • Practical and legal implications if the government has identified your industry as part of the ‘critical infrastructure’.
  • Options and obligations to develop or improve your pandemic plan, and the legal implications of your choice.

McGuireWoods counselors and advocates have experience in planning and actual response to H5N1 (Avian Influenza), nationwide food-contamination and other emergencies.