The Measles Outbreak: What Can Employers Do?

The measles outbreak has definitely been in the news a lot lately. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 880 confirmed cases of measles in 23 states, the greatest number reported since 1994 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. (Note: this number was current as of May 17, 2019. It is updated weekly.) Locally, the outbreaks are occurring in the following jurisdictions – Rockland County (New York), New York City and New Jersey.

Many are wondering if employers can require that employees receive a vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) or prove that there are immune.  According to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the answer is no… but with a few exceptions. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers such as offices and manufacturers from requiring vaccination or proof of immunity unless the employer is in a location such as Williamsburg, Brooklyn where vaccinations are now mandatory. Also, healthcare providers, public schools and nursing homes can require vaccinations since employees come into contact with children or people with weakened immune systems. However, due to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees can still decline for religious reasons.

With all of this in mind, there are steps that employee benefits professionals can take to help control employee exposure to measles:

  • Offer on-site measles vaccinations to employees, similar to on-site flu clinics.
  • Improve communication with employees – get the word out about the measles, symptoms, severity, and where they and their families can get the shot.
  • Also – a lot of employee-sponsored health plans cover preventative medicine. This includes vaccinations. Communicate this to employees, and if necessary, offer financial incentives to them as an option if they are not taking advantage.

For more information on measles and the vaccine (shot) to prevent it, you can download this handout from the CDC. Please note, the advice provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a legal, healthcare or insurance professional.

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