With cases of the H1N1 Virus continuing to increase, employers’ concerns about the H1N1 virus and seasonal flu are mounting.  Employers are facing workplace and leave issues and many are developing written H1N1 and contagious disease policies to help minimize the negative effects an influenza outbreak could have on their business. Anticipating many questions from employers, the Centers for Disease Control released Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009-2010 Flu Season.

The H1N1 virus and other contagious diseases present a multitude of legal issues. Employers should begin to take proactive measures in anticipation of H1N1 or other temporary contagious diseases and pandemics such as:

  • Conduct a comprehensive review of employment policies, particularly those that pertain to employee leave, sick leave, paid time off and/or unpaid leave. 
  • Consider implementing policies such as an Influenza in the Work Place Policy, a Contagious Temporary Disease Policy, a Quarantine Policy and/or a Communicable Disease Policy. 
  • Develop and review with employees a best practices policy to avoid the spread of contagious diseases, such as H1N1.
  • Consider if it is necessary to mandate that employees, particularly in the health care field, provide proof of H1N1 vaccination for the 2009-2010 influenza season.

Perhaps the most important issue is ensuring that the employer is compliant with the Family Medical Leave Act when responding to an employee who has exhausted their paid leave and requests FMLA leave for an H1N1 illness. Employers need to be aware of and recognize that, in some cases, the H1N1 virus may be sufficiently serious to qualify for FMLA leave. Employers that have a blanket policy declaring H1N1 or other influenza illnesses as not qualifying for FMLA leave may be putting themselves at risk. 

As always, if you have any questions regarding this or any issues involving employment or labor matters, please contact Albert S. Lee at 412.594.5611 or alee@tuckerlaw.com, Katherine E. Koop, at 412.594.5508 or kkoop@tuckerlaw.com or any of the other Labor and Employment attorneys at Tucker Arensberg. 

The Labor & Employment Law Group at Tucker Arensberg, P.C. has a diverse client base of private and public employers. Some of the services offered by the Labor & Employment Law Group include advising employers on discharge and discipline of employees, unemployment compensation, wage and hour employment and separation/severance agreements, non-competition and confidentiality clauses, employment litigation, etc.