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UPDATE: Swine Flu Spread Will Trigger Difficult Legal Questions for Employers Says Noted Pillsbury Attorney
Date:4/29/2009

Note to News Outlets: This is a corrected update of a press release issued on April 28. Please discard earlier release.

Managing impacted workforces and potential liabilities are just a few of the challenges facing employers

NEW YORK, April 29 /PRNewswire/ -- Business managers following swine flu's (H1N1 influenza) spread and monitoring government advisories should prepare to handle the difficult legal issues likely to be triggered in 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. Pillsbury's team advises the City of New York and other clients on emergency and disaster response plans for natural disasters, epidemics, 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 can change 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 and when they can lawfully demand employees provide proof of vaccination or treatment, bar employees from the office, or compel healthy -- but fearful -- staff to report 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 without complying with the applicable legal requirements. They can also run afoul of provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and state law if certain health records are improperly shared or not properly maintained.

"After addressing their top priority of human health and welfare, organizations also have to look at what could happen, if their suppliers or service
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SOURCE Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
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