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Update, March 16, 2020, 1:20 p.m. Governor Newsom Issues Guidance That All People Over The Age Of 65 and People With Chronic Conditions Should Self Isolate
On March 15, 2020, Governor Newsom held a press conference where he made a further announcement regarding provisions for the public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. As a consideration, in order to protect the most vulnerable, he stated that he was calling for the home isolation of all seniors and people with chronic conditions. While he did not describe what that means, it is likely that he means that people 65 and older and those with chronic conditions should not leave their house, given that he discussed that his task forces would be working on logistics and the provision of wraparound services, including delivering food.
Governor Newsom gave a strongly worded request, in the interest of public health that people over the age of 65 and those with chronic conditions should not to work. Although the guidance was not an order, employers will need to be aware that employees over the age of 65 and people with chronic conditions may legitimately feel the need to self-quarantine. Employers may also consider pro-actively informing their employees that those who are 65 and older, or those who have chronic health conditions, may work remotely or request time off based on Governor Newsom’s guidance.
LCW recommends that if employees who are 65 or older or those with chronic health conditions state that they plan to self-quarantine, and not come to work, these employees can use sick leave or other leave balances. Currently there is no other mandatory leave that employers must provide. If the current version of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act for expansion of the Family Leave Rights Act (FMLA) and Emergency Paid Sick Leave does not change, these employees will likely not qualify for FMLA leave and Paid Sick Leave. This may change depending on the final language of the Act and whether it is signed into law.
On the other hand, if an employee who is 65 and older wants to work and poses no health threat, employers should not require them to stay home. Employers may not discriminate against employees based on their age, disability, or medical condition, and requiring employees in these protected categories not to come to work could be considered discriminatory.