There are many Wisconsin employees who may be required to travel outside the state or even outside the country for work. With the rise of the Zika virus, employees who may be required to travel to the affected regions may be at risk for contracting the virus.
Initially, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had released warnings targeted at pregnant women or women who were planning to get pregnant against traveling to certain countries where the virus had been reported. However, those guidelines have been revised after the virus was reportedly transmitted via human-to-human contact in Texas. Men who have pregnant partners or who have partners who may become pregnant are recommended to use condoms or abstain from sexual activity altogether.
Although the virus poses a potential risk to certain employees, employers cannot prevent pregnant employees or employees who may become pregnant from traveling to high-risk areas. However, employers are legally allowed to, and should, discuss the risks of traveling to the area with their employees. In fact, all employees, regardless of whether or not they intend to become pregnant or are already pregnant, should be made aware of the risks. Employees who are concerned about the risks may potentially still be required to travel to high-risk areas as the Zika virus is a public health issue and not a work-related issue.
Even though certain areas of the world have certain health risks, employees cannot discriminate by preventing employees from traveling if it is part of their work. If an employee is prevented from traveling and it affects their ability to do their work, it may constitute workplace discrimination. An employment law attorney can more fully investigate the matter and, if harm has resulted, assist in filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or appropriate state agency.