An employee has indicated that she has bed bugs in her apartment building. How should we handle bed bugs at work? What responsibility do we have as an employer towards our other employees?
The first step is to communicate with your employees measures that they can take to prevent exposure, or if exposure has occurred, minimize the risk that the bed bugs will be transported to work. Under the OSHA general duty standard, an employer has an obligation to provide a safe work environment free of hazards that may cause physical harm. If it is determined that there are bed bugs in your workplace, you should take immediate action to eradicate the infestation (typically by calling an exterminator). There may also be obligations of notification and recordkeeping if hazardous chemicals are used to rectify the situation. If an employee has indicated that he or she has been exposed, you can request that the employee stay home until the problem has been taken care of on their end. Keep in mind, an exempt employee may be required to be paid for time away from work that is less than a full day.
Every situation should be taken on its own merit. In addition to OSHA, there are a number of different issues that should be considered: Family and Medical Leave (if the employee has been exposed and needs to deal with the exposure), Workers’ Compensation (if the employee is exposed at work), and the Fair Labor Standards Act (determining if you have to pay for time missed from work). We do recommend consulting with an attorney before any adverse action is taken resulting from bed bug exposure.
You may find additional information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Strategic HR understands your concerns with the well-being of your employees. We offer expertise in health, safety, and security to cover any need you may have from analyzing your safety programs to making sure you are OSHA compliant to proactively ensuring employee wellness. Please visit our Health, Safety & Security page for more information on any of these services.