May an employee refuse to perform job duties based on concerns about Zika?

Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, XpertHR Legal Editor

It depends. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, an employee can refuse to perform job duties only where there is an objectively reasonable belief that there is "imminent death or serious injury." However, considering the ability to take precautions to prevent exposure and infection, it is unlikely that an employee could prove that he or she has an objective belief. An employer, however, should not rush to discipline the employee, but instead should educate the employee on preventative measures, e.g., use of insect repellent.