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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 providers are in particularly hard-hit regions and incapacitated, or if the company itself is unable to serve customers under contract. Business interruption insurance, while often of real value, is rarely a panacea," Taber noted.

Taber recommends that organizations review their emergency response plans with counsel to ensure they reflect both the changing needs of the organization and likely risk factors.

In alliance with the American Red Cross in Greater New York, Protiviti and LMI Government Consulting, Pillsbury's Disaster Planning & Liability Management team program has developed a customized methodology that effectively assesses disaster-related liability exposure and enables operational objectives to be properly aligned with risk management objectives.

About Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

Pillsbury is a full-service law firm with market-leading strengths in the energy, financial services, real estate and technology sectors. With a presence in the world's major financial and technology centers, Pillsbury counsels clients on all aspects of global business and litigation. We work in multidisciplinary teams that allow us to anticipate trends and bring a 360-degree perspective to complex business and legal issues--helping clients to take greater advantage of new opportunities and better mitigate risk. This collaborative work style helps produce the results our clients seek.


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SOURCE Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
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