Cold and flu season is almost here and employees are lining up for their annual flu shots. The flu shots being offered won’t cover the dreaded H1N1 swine flu and that leaves many wondering what to do if the fear mongers are right this time and the swine flu turns into a massive outbreak.
What at first blush appears to be solely a health concern on closer examination has a number of legal ramifications for the workplace.
For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. You also have to be careful about how and when you can ask health related questions of employees and prospective employees. Luckily, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is offering some guidance on how to avoid an ADA violation while dealing with the swine flu. It can help you steer clear of potential violations by clarifying what type of behavior is permissible under the Act.
Believe it or not, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may come into play if the swine flu meets the FMLA definition of being a serious health condition. If the FMLA definition gets triggered, it means that employees would be allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to take care of their own or a family members’ serious health condition AND that you wouldn’t be able to count such absences toward enforcement of attendance policies.
Navigating the quirks of employment law is always made easier if you consult your attorney. In having those conversations it helps to be prepared. You therefore might want to take a look at this helpful website created by the Department of Health and Human Services that includes industry specific checklists on how to develop a plan that’s right for your business.
These free resources are nothing to sneeze at.