Wondering what it is okay to say and do with regard to employees who have, or might have, the flu? The EEOC has stepped up with information to clarify with information about flu-related issues based on the principles of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. The World Heath Organization posts periodic updates on the status of the H1N1 pandemic, which has been in phase 6 (sustained community-level transmission of the virus is taking place in more than one region of the world) since June 2009. Delaware is one of the states that the United States Center for Disease Control currently considers to be experiencing a “widespread” H1N1 flu outbreak.
The EEOC has provided a questionnaire that employers may use to determine the likelihood that employees will be absent during a flu outbreak:
ADA-COMPLIANT PRE-PANDEMIC EMPLOYEE SURVEY
Directions: Answer “yes” to the whole question without specifying the factor that applies to you. Simply check “yes” or “no” at the bottom of the page.
In the event of a pandemic, would you be unable to come to work because of any one of the following reasons:
If schools or day-care centers were closed, you would need to care for a child;
If other services were unavailable, you would need to care for other dependents;
If public transport were sporadic or unavailable, you would be unable to travel to work; and/or;
If you or a member of your household fall into one of the categories identified by the CDC as being at high risk for serious complications from the pandemic influenza virus, you would be advised by public health authorities not to come to work (e.g., pregnant women; persons with compromised immune systems due to cancer, HIV, history of organ transplant or other medical conditions; persons less than 65 years of age with underlying chronic conditions; or persons over 65).
Answer: Yes______ No_______
The EEOC also explains that employers may send employees home who appear to have flu symptoms, may ask employees if they are experiencing flu symptoms (fever, chills, cough, sore throat), may take employees’ temperatures if the flu is deemed “widespread” by state or local authorities or the CDC (although some people with flu do not run a fever), may encourage employees to telecommute, may require employees to adopt infection control practices like hand washing and proper coughing and sneezing practices, may require employees to wear personal protective equipment designed to reduce infection transmission (i.e., gloves, face masks, disposable gowns), and may ask employees why they were absent from work.
Employers may not require employees to get flu vaccines, ask whether employees have health conditions that may make them more vulnerable to flu or complications from flu, or treat employees or applicants differently because they have a disability (such as HIV) that could make them more vulnerable to flu or complications from flu.