HR Management & Compliance

Business Travel, the Zika Virus, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

By Catherine Moreton Gray, JD

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the Zika virus a “public health emergency of international concern.” According to WHO, the virus is transmitted by mosquitoes and is linked to a spike in birth defects in cases where the mother contracted the virus during pregnancy. Also, a study in Brazil suggests there is a link between the virus and a rise in incidents of Guillame-Barre syndrome, which can cause temporary paralysis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel notices related to the Zika virus for the Pacific Islands, Caribbean, Central America, South America, Cape Verde, and Mexico. Individuals traveling to these areas are advised to take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes that may carry the virus.

What should employers do if a pregnant employee or employee who may become pregnant expresses concern or refuses to travel to an area with Zika virus? Can an employer prohibit women who are pregnant from traveling on business to an affected area?

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