**Updated March 12, 2020**

Declaration of Coronavirus Pandemic by the World Health Organization

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic regarding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (also referred to as COVID-19, but more commonly known simply as the “Coronavirus”), which has spread to over 100 countries and territories.  The WHO defines a pandemic – a designation that it has not used since the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic – as “the worldwide spread of a new disease,” and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) describes it as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.”  As of the date of the WHO’s designation, the Coronavirus has infected more than 115,000 individuals worldwide, and the number of cases in the United States has surpassed 1,000.

In the wake of the WHO’s declaration, President Donald Trump announced a 30-day ban, beginning at midnight on March 13, 2020, on foreign nationals traveling to the United States from the 26 countries in Europe’s Schengen area.  For a list of covered countries, click here.  Members of the U.S. military, their spouses and children, health professionals combatting the spread of the Coronavirus, diplomats, air or sea crew, and the spouses, parents, or siblings of U.S. citizens or permanent residents are exempt from these travel restrictions.  Click here for more information.  After the President’s address, the U.S. State Department issued a global level 3 health advisory, urging U.S. citizens to reconsider all travel abroad.

EEOC Pandemic Preparedness Guidance

In light of the WHO’s pandemic designation, employers should familiarize themselves with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act” guide. In a March 4 news alert, the EEOC reminded employers of its 2009 guidance and made clear that the prohibitions set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Business and Employers.

Nevertheless, as set forth in our prior blog post, employers should take note that the ADA places general restrictions on the kinds of inquiries that can be made into an employee’s medical status. Specifically, the ADA prohibits employers from making disability-related inquiries and requiring medical examinations, unless (1) the employer can show that the inquiry or exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity, or (2) where the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a direct threat to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot otherwise be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.

Some key takeaways from the EEOC’s pandemic guide are that employers: (i) may encourage teleworking and require the adoption of infection-control practices, such as regular hand washing; (ii) need not wait until an employee returning from travel develops symptoms to inquire about exposure to the Coronavirus; (iii) may require employees who have traveled to affected areas or were otherwise potentially exposed to stay home; and (iv) may ask employees about the reason for their absence from work.

Employers should continue to frequently monitor WHO, CDC, and U.S. State Department websites for the latest information about the rapidly evolving Coronavirus situation.  It is also increasingly important to monitor state and city health agencies and government websites for localized considerations regarding the Coronavirus.  On March 10, for example, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo deployed the National Guard to create a one-mile containment area around New York City suburb New Rochelle in an attempt to stem the Coronavirus spread from that area.  Other cities and states are increasingly discouraging large gatherings.

We will continue to monitor this situation and report back on key developments as they occur.  You can also read more about our guidance to employers about Coronavirus in the workplace on our blog post, which is updated regularly.

Proskauer’s cross-disciplinary, cross-jurisdictional Coronavirus Response Team is focused on supporting and addressing client concerns. Visit our Coronavirus Resource Center for guidance on risk management measures, practical steps businesses can take and resources to help manage ongoing operations.

Photo of Evandro Gigante Evandro Gigante

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of…

Evandro Gigante is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-head of the Employment Litigation & Arbitration group and the Hiring & Terminations group. He represents and counsels clients through a variety of labor and employment matters, including allegations of race, gender, national origin, disability and religious discrimination, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, defamation and breach of contract. Evandro also counsels employers through reductions-in-force and advises clients on restrictive covenant issues, such as confidentiality, non-compete and non-solicit agreements.

With a focus on discrimination and harassment matters, Evandro has extensive experience representing clients before federal and state courts. He has tried cases in court and before arbitrators and routinely represents clients before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as state and local human rights commissions.

Photo of Guy Brenner Guy Brenner

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group and is co-head of the Non-Compete & Trade Secrets Group. He has…

Guy Brenner is a partner in the Labor & Employment Law Department and leads the Firm’s Washington, D.C. Labor & Employment practice. He is head of the Government Contractor Compliance Group and is co-head of the Non-Compete & Trade Secrets Group. He has extensive experience representing employers in both single-plaintiff and class action matters, as well as in arbitration proceedings. He also regularly assists federal government contractors with the many special employment-related compliance challenges they face.

Guy represents employers in all aspects of employment and labor litigation and counseling, with an emphasis on non-compete and trade secrets issues, medical and disability leave matters, employee/independent contractor classification issues, and the investigation and litigation of whistleblower claims. He assists employers in negotiating and drafting executive agreements and employee mobility agreements, including non-competition, non-solicit and non-disclosure agreements, and also conducts and supervises internal investigations. He also regularly advises clients on pay equity matters, including privileged pay equity analyses.

Guy advises federal government contractors and subcontractors all aspects of Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) regulations and requirements, including preparing affirmative action plans, responding to desk audits, and managing on-site audits.

Photo of Laura Fant Laura Fant

As a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group, Laura Fant frequently counsels on a wide variety of employment matters, including employee leave and accommodation matters involving…

As a special employment law counsel in the Labor & Employment Law Department and co-administrative leader of the Counseling, Training & Pay Equity Practice Group, Laura Fant frequently counsels on a wide variety of employment matters, including employee leave and accommodation matters involving the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and related state and local laws. She also regularly drafts and advises on implementation and enforcement of employment and separation agreements, employee handbooks and company policies, as well as provides training on topics such as discrimination and harassment in the workplace, performance management, and the accommodation of physical and mental disabilities. Laura is a frequent contributor to Proskauer’s Law and the Workplace blog.

Before joining the Firm, Laura was assistant general counsel to the City of New York’s Office of Labor Relations. Prior to that, she was law clerk to Judge Jose L. Fuentes of the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, and a judicial intern to Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Photo of Nayirie K. Mehdikhani Nayirie K. Mehdikhani

Nayirie Kuyumjian is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Nayirie represents clients in federal and state litigations, arbitrations, labor-management relations and collective bargaining, as well as, employment matters, including, class actions and employment discrimination.

Previously, Nayirie served as Assistant General…

Nayirie Kuyumjian is an associate in the Labor & Employment Law Department. Nayirie represents clients in federal and state litigations, arbitrations, labor-management relations and collective bargaining, as well as, employment matters, including, class actions and employment discrimination.

Previously, Nayirie served as Assistant General Counsel at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Labor Relations, where she represented the Mayor and City agencies in every phase of labor administrative proceedings including arbitration, improper practice matters and collective bargaining negotiations. During law school, Nayirie was a teaching assistant for the class, “Labor and Employment Law” at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, a legal extern at NIKE, Inc., and a graduate intern in Business Affairs and Development at ESPN, Inc.