Susan Gross Sholinsky, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Human Resource Executive, in “Coronavirus: HR’s Role,” by Andrew McIlvaine.

Following is an excerpt:

There’s a virus that’s currently ravaging the U.S. So far this season, it’s caused at least 22 million illnesses, 210,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 deaths.

The cause of this scourge is the general influenza virus, which is wreaking more havoc than usual across the country this winter. In 2018, the flu cost U.S. companies $18 billion in lost productivity, reports Gartner. However, a different virus has received far more media coverage and is stirring much more anxiety: the coronavirus, which has caused a near economic shutdown in China and has prompted travelers returning from that country to undergo special screening and possible quarantine.

Although organizations must take precautions to guard their employees from coronavirus, experts are concerned that fear and misinformation could ultimately land companies in legal jeopardy. …

Nevertheless, companies shouldn’t allow fear to dictate their response to the threat or rumors to undermine employee morale.

“So as to avoid the spread of misinformation, HR should endeavor to ensure that employees aren’t sharing false information or gossiping about others,” says Susan Gross Sholinsky, a member of the employment, labor and workforce management practice at Epstein Becker Green.

Employers should also ensure that employees aren’t refusing to interact with colleagues and/or customers who are of Asian descent, she adds. Such behavior could lead to complaints about discrimination based on national origin and ethnicity, or it could even be “regarded as” disability discrimination.

“Rather, any actions taken (or avoided) should be based on whether an individual is likely to have been exposed to the virus,” Gross Sholinsky says. …

“Employers should ensure that employees aren’t improperly creating a hostile environment for employees of Asian descent due simply to their national origin or ethnicity,” says Gross Sholinsky.

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