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Swine Flu Plans Triggering Difficult Legal Questions, Says Noted Pillsbury Attorney
Date:4/28/2009

Managing sick and concerned workers, navigating quarantine barriers and liabilities are just a few of the impact areas facing epidemic-wary managers

NEW YORK, April 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Business managers following swine flu's (H1N1 influenza) spread and monitoring government advisories should prepare to handle difficult legal issues triggered by an escalating epidemic or worst-case pandemic scenario, says New York litigation partner Kenneth W. Taber, head of Pillsbury's Disaster Planning and Liability Management Team, which advises the City of New York and other clients on emergency and disaster response plans for natural disaster, epidemic, terrorism and other crisis scenarios.

"Epidemics pose particularly difficult issues because unlike a hurricane or terrorist bomb, the scope of impact is not immediately clear and changes rapidly," Taber explains. "Compared to asking when a fire can be extinguished or electricity restored, diseases present companies with more complicated questions, such as whether they can lawfully demand employees provide proof of vaccination, bar sick employees from the office or compel healthy -- but fearful -- staff from reporting for work."

Taber adds that even well-intentioned companies seeking to accommodate employees' concerns and assist health authorities can inadvertently incur liability if they distribute medications, for example. They can also run afoul of provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if certain health records are improperly shared or flu-infected workers allege discrimination. He notes that some organizations, such as federally-supported universities and government contractors are subject to different regulations apart from other areas of the private sector.

Because disease outbreaks are difficult to identify and contain quickly and can persist over time with varying ef
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SOURCE Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
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