Ebola: Selected Legal Issues [December 16, 2014]   [open pdf - 371KB]

"Several West African countries are currently grappling with an unprecedented outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD). Here in the United States, where Ebola is not endemic, a handful of EVD cases have been diagnosed, and domestic transmission of the virus has occurred in only two cases to date. This report provides a brief overview of selected legal issues regarding measures to prevent transmission of Ebola virus and the civil rights of individuals affected by the disease. Quarantine and isolation are restrictions on a person's movement, imposed to prevent the spread of contagious disease. The federal government has jurisdiction over interstate and border quarantine, carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, primary quarantine authority typically resides with state health departments and health officials. Every state has the authority to pass and enforce quarantine laws as an exercise of its police powers, but these laws may vary widely by state. State and federal quarantine or isolation orders may be subject to suits alleging inadequate due process or violations of equal protection, but modern legal challenges to quarantine and isolation orders are not extensive. […] The use of these measures to contain the spread of Ebola may raise a classic civil rights issue: to what extent can an individual's liberty be curtailed to advance the common good? In addition to the constitutional issues noted above, discrimination against individuals with an infectious disease may be covered by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). While quarantine and isolation effectively minimize Ebola exposure, they may also raise various employment concerns, particularly for those workers who fear losing their jobs or wages if they are forced to comply with a quarantine or isolation order. Infected workers may also be protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if it can be established that they have a serious health condition, and employers whose employees could face workplace exposure to Ebola virus may be obligated to comply with applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43829
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html
Media Type:
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