Can employees be required to wear protective gear to reduce the spread of the flu?


The flu has hit your community very hard and while you’re encouraged by the number of employees who continue to appear for work, you’d like to find a way to prevent or at least slow down the spread of the flu in your workplace. You’re thinking of requiring each employee to wear personal protective equipment, such as a face mask or gloves. Can you require your employees to do this without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?


Yes. According to the EEOC, an employer may require its employees to wear personal protective equipment (e.g., face masks, gloves, or gowns) designed to reduce the transmission of a pandemic virus. However, where an employee with a disability needs a related reasonable accommodation under the ADA (e.g., non-latex gloves or gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs), the employer should provide these absent undue hardship.

Employers also may require workers to adopt infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and tissue usage and disposal, as they do not implicate the ADA. Encouraging or requiring employees to telework is another acceptable infection control strategy, based on timely information from public health authorities about pandemic conditions. Of course, employers may not single out employees either to telework or to continue reporting to the workplace on a basis prohibited by any of the EEO laws.

Source: EEOC’s “ADA-Compliant Employer Preparedness for the H1N1 Flu Virus,” reported in the CCH Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5292.

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