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To Allow or Not Allow: How to Navigate Employee Leisure Travel with State Travel Bans Due to COVID-19

Published:  July 31, 2020

The dog days of summer are here, which means employees will be taking vacation time off from work.  This year, with COVID-19, many states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut have issued travel bans with various restrictions imposed on travelers returning to their home state.  In light of the continued COVID-19 surge around the country, employers may be struggling over what the right thing to do is with respect to summer vacations and employee time-off.  Indeed, whether or not to allow employee travel creates a quagmire of concerns over health, safety, possible exposures, and time out of work for quarantining.

What’s the state of the law now:

  • In Massachusetts, effective tomorrow, all visitors and anyone returning to Massachusetts from anywhere other than a lower risk COVID state must quarantine for 14 days.  Alternative to the 14-day-quarantine is producing a negative Covid-19 test result.  There are very limited exemptions to the travel order.  Currently, there are only 8 states deemed to be lower risk. 
  • In Connecticut, travelers into Connecticut must adhere to a 14 day quarantine.  There is a testing alternative available in Connecticut but only when one is “unable” to self-quarantine.  Like Massachusetts, there are limited exceptions to the Connecticut order.  Today, Connecticut identified 34 states as high-risk for travel.     

So, what’s an employer to do?  Yogi Berra may have said it right: “if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  Thus, having an approach to and a plan for vacation time off is essential.  As a general matter, the plan should address health and safety concerns and the extent to which the employer wants to regulate off-duty conduct.  More specific questions should be addressed by the plan, including whether a moratorium or a restriction on use of paid time off should be implemented, whether approval for a time-off request should be conditioned on the employee having additional time off beyond to support a 14-day quarantine, if necessary, and whether disclosures and acknowledgment forms should be signed in an attempt to ensure an open dialogue and receive truthful information about travel plans.

If you have any questions related to planning for employee travel, please contact Amy Royal at 413-586-2288 or by email at aroyal@theroyallawfirm.com

 

 

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