Overview: An employer is required under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act to provide a safe and healthful workplace for its employees. In doing so, an employer may benefit from having more productive employees, less absenteeism and lower health care costs, to name but a few.
When it comes to managing employee health matters, there are different concerns that must be considered, including those related to everyday health issues, emergency medical situations, mental health, substance abuse and the environment. Having an employee health program that addresses the various health concerns will mean that the workplace is prepared for any contingency. An employee health plan may include training workers in CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver, installing an AED, teaching proper employee hygiene, having flexible work schedules, establishing Employee Assistance Programs and Wellness Programs and creating no-smoking environments.
When addressing the health concerns of employees, it is critical that an employer consider the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its obligations and responsibilities under the law. In addition, it is also important that an employer takes steps to protect the employee and avoid discrimination and retaliation claims as a result of any perceived or actual health issue.
Trends: Many states and municipalities ban smoking in the workplace. In recent years, some states are expanding the ban to include electronic cigarettes, pipes, hookahs, and vaping devices. However, regardless of whether state law allows smoking in the workplace, an employer should consider prohibiting smoking and limiting it to the outside or in a designated smoking area.
Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to reflect whistleblower protections in the federal Taxpayer First Act, an amendment prohibiting discrimination based on reproductive health decisions in Hawaii, amendments to medical marijuana law in New Jersey and amendments regarding service animals in Rhode Island.
Updated to reflect forthcoming expansion of Nevada's workplace smoking ban to include e-cigarettes.
Updated to reflect amendments to medical marijuana law, effective July 2, 2019.
Updated to include the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which amends marijuana laws, effective June 25, 2019.
HR and legal considerations for employers regarding employee health programs. Support on keeping employees healthy and productive while at work.