May my business require employees to travel?
As a practical matter, it is becoming increasingly difficult to travel to countries or regions of countries with widespread COVID-19 infections. Travelers should consult airline websites and should also check the website for the local health authority for up-to-the-minute guidance on travel restrictions. Some countries have closed their borders entirely to non-citizens or require extended quarantines upon arrival, which might present the risk that an employee who travels to such a country remains unable to return home indefinitely.
For U.S. travelers, the CDC website provides guidance about the advisability of travel to countries that have been affected by COVID-19 which employers may consult in determining whether it is advisable to require or permit travel. Travelers should assess the risk profile of their destination country before they travel. Generally, the CDC has classified countries as levels one through three based on risk stratification criteria.
Areas subject to a Level 3 Travel Health Notice pose a widespread, sustained or ongoing risk of community transmission. Travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to those destinations. As of May 22, 2020, all areas of the world are subject to a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. The CDC recommends travelers returning from an area subject to a Level 3 Travel Health Notice stay home for 14 days from the time they left the area subject to the Level 3 Notice and practice social distancing.
By executive order, the entry of foreign nationals from most of Europe, China, Iran, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Brazil into the United States has been suspended. American citizens, lawful permanent residents, and member of their families may enter the United States but will be redirected to one of the following 13 airports for health screening:
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Massachusetts
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Illinois;
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Texas;
- Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL), Hawaii;
- Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), Michigan:
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Georgia;
- John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), New York;
- Los Angeles International Airport, (LAX), California;
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), New Jersey;
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO), California;
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington; and
- Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD), Virginia.
For now, employers should consider strictly limiting business travel to essential trips and, as part of pre-approving any international trip, consider whether the employee may telework on return while away from work. CDC recommends that persons returning from international travel stay home on return for 14 days and monitor their health. Before approving domestic business travel, employers should consider questions like those the CDC recommends for domestic travel, as well as whether the aims of the business trip may be accomplished by videoconferencing or other means.
Travelers should pay attention to communications from their airline, from local authorities, and from the U.S. government. U.S. citizens may enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which is a service of the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. Department of State that provides information from the local U.S. embassy about safety conditions in the country a traveler is visiting. The STEP program also helps the embassy contact U.S. citizens in an emergency.
Employees who are traveling should also know their foreign medical provider options and determine how to access those options. For companies whose workforces travel extensively, communication around this topic could be helpful.
Last updated May 26
These materials are made available by Jackson Walker for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal or medical advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.