Employers may have legal obligations to sick employees, law firm says
HOUSTON In light of the current concerns over swine flu, employers may have legal obligations to limit worksite exposure to the virus, which could include keeping employees suspected of having the flu home and requiring medical certification that the employee is not contagious before allowing them to return to the workplace, the law firm of Epstein Becker & Green stated in a press release Friday.
“Employers often encourage sick workers to come to work, and sick workers often want to come,” stated David Barron, an attorney at Epstein Becker & Green. “However, when it comes to a pandemic, this type of reaction could spread illness and create devastating economic and medical havoc.”
Employers may want to keep employees home who have recently been to Mexico — or have been otherwise exposed — until it is conclusive that they are not infected, Barron said. “This is perfectly lawful and, in fact, employers have a legal responsibility under federal safety laws to provide a safe and disease-free workplace.”
Barron said that many clients have asked about the legality of testing employees who exhibit symptoms in the workplace: “An employer has a right to require fitness for duty testing if an employee could pose a safety risk to him or her self or to others – this means that an employer could require a medical certification that an employee exhibiting flu-like symptoms is not contagious before allowing re-entry into the workplace.”
While ensuring worksite safety is an employer’s responsibility, employers can require employees not to wear facemasks, the law firm stated.
“If an employee who is not sick comes to work in a mask, the employer may decide that this image is not good for business and could scare off customers,” Barron said. “In that situation, an employer could require the employee to remove the mask or place the employee on leave until they are comfortable working in the employer’s desired uniform.”
Drugstore.com delivers in three focus areas, CEO says
BELLEVUE, Wash. So far, so good. Drugstore.com on Thursday announced that it is delivering on three areas of focus in what has become an exceedingly challenging retail environment.
“I’m very pleased to announce that we’ve made substantial progresses in all [three] of these areas in the first quarter, posting one of our strongest quarters to date, despite facing a very tough economy,” Dawn Lepore, Drugstore.com CEO and chairman, told analysts Wednesday evening.
The three focal points for Drugstore.com included a focus on growing its over-the-counter and vision businesses at a faster rate than overall e-commerce; a focus on driving bottom-line improvements and a focus on incremental growth for the year.
So the scorecard so far —OTC revenue grew over 11%, well ahead of recent e-commerce industry trends, and the beauty business grew at an even faster pace, increasing 14%, despite a decline in the beauty industry.
Gross margins were at 28.2%, delivering adjusted EBITDA of $5.6 million to the bottom line, which is more than double the adjusted EBITDA the previous-year period.
“I believe our record performance in the first quarter offers evidence that we can continue to grow in a difficult economic environment, while also improving the strategic positioning of the company,” Lepore said, suggesting that the online retailer will be able to maintain its improved performance through the remainder of the year.
Looking forward, Drugstore.com plans to launch its Medco Health Solutions-branded OTC web site in the second quarter, with a notable ramp in the second half of the year. “We believe our partnership is on track and we are in active conversations with other potential partners,” Lepore said.
American Forces Press Service confirms swine flu case in Calif.
ARLINGTON, Va. The American Forces Press Service on Wednesday confirmed a swine flu case at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
A male Marine reported to a medical clinic on base over the weekend complaining of flu-like symptoms, the report read. Initial test results indicate the H1N1 virus, and the service is waiting for further results from testing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Marine Corps Gen. James Conway said. The Marine and his roommate have both been quarantined.
“Our base commanders are all very much attentive to what’s taking place,” Conway said during a press briefing Wednesday. “The battalion surgeon, a very aggressive, young Navy lieutenant, has identified 37 other Marines that he has come in contact with, over the weekend, before he came in. Those people have also been, at this point, set aside. And they’re being watched and tested and given the Tamiflu, to prevent any further exposure to the disease, on their part.”
The 37 are not officially quarantined, but are not allowed in public places such as unit formations and dining facilities.
The southern-California base is about 200 miles from the Mexican border, but the Marine had not visited Mexico, Conway said.