Over the River and Through the Woods: Employee Holiday Travel

What a busy time of year! All that year end planning and existential dread from 2020 to process. So, do we really need to police holiday travel? Yes you do, particularly with Dr. Fauci predicting a “surge on top of a surge” from the Thanksgiving-Hanukkah-Christmas travel this year. The reality is keeping your workplace healthy has never been more challenging and  more important than now.

With the marked increase in COVID-19 cases around the country, many states are making their out of state travel orders stricter. For example, only Hawaii has remained on Massachusetts’ lower-risk state list, meaning that anyone returning to Massachusetts from any other state must quarantine for a period of 14 days, or get tested 72 hours prior to entering Massachusetts. (NB: Not all states allow test out–see below)

CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE: Even if your employee provides critical infrastructure services, the worker must quarantine for 14 days when not performing work or commuting to work. There is no exemption from the quarantine requirement if the reason they traveled out of state was for personal reasons or vacation.

TEST OUT INSTEAD OF QUARANTINE?  Depends. Unlike Massachusetts, some other states do not have a testing exemption from the quarantine requirement. New Hampshire requires a 14 day quarantine for out of state travel outside of New England for anyone returning to the state, and getting a negative test result does not excuse the quarantine period. Your state may differ.

CDC GUIDANCE: Despite the changes in CDC guidance for close contacts, employers still need to comply with the stricter state travel and quarantine guidelines. The CDC guidance is the floor not the ceiling and has no impact on state and local restrictions.

CAN EMPLOYERS STOP EMPLOYEE TRAVEL FOR NOW? It depends–the answer clients love to hear! Employers in a few states may not be able to completely prohibit holiday travel if there are state rules on off duty conduct, like we mentioned in our recent blog post.

In most states employers can:

  • Provide notice to employees that they discourage out of state travel, and inform employees of quarantine requirements upon their return;
  • Require employees to inform them if they do travel out of state, and place restrictions on returning to the physical workplace upon their return;
  • Require your employees to receive a COVID-19 test before reporting back to work and require employees to work remotely while they are complying with state Travel Orders.

If remote work is not an option, and employees need to quarantine under a Travel Order, your employee can take FFCRA leave through the end of December. Remember that the FFCRA expires at the end of the year, and employees are only eligible to take a maximum of 80 hours’ paid sick leave for quarantining through all of 2020.

Questions? We can help.