The H1N1 flu is more than a health inconvenience — it is an illness that could fall under the jurisdiction of some employment laws. It is important to understand how the laws might be applied to flu-related absences.
Family and Medical Leave Act: The H1N1 flu might be considered a serious health condition. The rule states that "ordinarily, unless complications arise, the common cold, the flu … are examples of conditions that do not meet the definition of a serious health condition." However, complications are possible with the H1N1 flu, so leave under this act might be appropriate.
Americans with Disabilities Act: The flu is unlikely to be considered a disability because it is generally a short-term condition.
Fair Labor Standards Act: According to Allen Smith, JD, manager of workplace law content for the Society for Human Resource Management, time away from work for exempt employees can be unpaid as long as it is in full-day increments if it is voluntary and initiated by the exempt employee. For time off mandated by employers, the time away from work for exempt employees can be unpaid only in full pay-week increments. For nonexempt workers, time away can be unpaid, subject to paid-leave policies.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that employers make plans for a possibly severe flu season. Employer flu vaccination programs, which are offered by Saint Francis Medical Center, are one way reduce the financial impact of the illness on businesses, as well as their employees. More information about the possible impact on businesses can be found at www.flu.gov.
In addition to vaccination programs, encourage everyone to follow these steps to help stop the spread of the H1N1 flu and other respiratory illnesses:
- Wash hands frequently
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and immediately dispose of the tissue
- Stay away from people who are coughing
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Stay active
- Eat a nutritious diet
For more information, call Saint Francis Services to Business at 573-331-5825.