Employers in New York and New Jersey who were wondering whether to require employees returning from the three West African nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea who had direct contact with a person with Ebola to stay home from work during the 21-day Ebola incubation period now do not have to make that decision. Governors Cuomo and Christie have made it for them. The Governors just issued orders mandating that travelers from the impacted West African countries be quarantined for 21 days. They cited changing CDC guidelines as confusing and that New York and New Jersey need a clear standard given the seriousness of the disease and the dense population in their states and cities. Employers in New Jersey and New York also do not need to make the determination about whether an employee had direct contact with an Ebola-infected person, because public health authorities will make this determination when the employee returns to the US.
If the employee on quarantine is not actually sick with Ebola, it is unlikely the individual has a serious health condition within the meaning of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Nevertheless, if the individual develops Ebola, then in New York and New Jersey the absence could qualify as an FMLA absence and paid leave benefits could run concurrently with the FMLA leave. It is possible that additional guidance will be published on treatment of individuals on quarantine, so employers should continue to closely monitor developments.