You have an employee who is afraid to return to work because of Covid-19...
What can an employer do? First, find out the 'why' behind the fear.
Is the fear based on the employee's disability or an underlying health condition? He/she may be eligible for leave under FMLA or an accommodation (such as remote work) under the ADA. The employer should activate both processes to determine next steps.
Is the fear based on a family member's serious health condition and a potential susceptibility to a Covid-19 infection? FMLA may apply if the employee has responsibility for the care of the family member. ADA does not apply because the employee does not have a disability.
What if the employee's fear about returning to work is without an underlying mental or physical impairment? The employee is without federal legal protections and the employer can compel he/she to return to work or face an adverse employment action however, in these trying times, compassion and empathy should guide this discussion. Assure the employee that all safety protocols have been employed at the workplace, education around proper behaviors and flexibility where able.