Friday, September 18, 2009
Employers: Ready for the swine flu?
|We are already fielding questions from employers regarding what they need to do to prepare for the flu season. Employers should take the following steps now to protect their employees’ health and safety, while at the same time minimizing business interruption and potential liability.
· Regularly check the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The situation is rapidly evolving, and these websites are regularly updated with the latest facts and guidance on the swine flu virus.
· Communicate with your employees. Assure them that you are monitoring the situation with the goal being to maintain a safe and healthy workplace. Stress to them the importance of not infecting their co-workers, customers and others, should they become exposed.
· Make good workplace hygiene easy. Post “wash your hands” reminders above sinks. Keep supplies of soap, cleaning products and antibacterial hand sanitizer well-stocked and readily available.
· Consider modifying your policies. You don’t want sick employees coming to work out of fear that they will be terminated or because they can’t afford to take time off. Consider implementing telecommuting policies and expanding upon paid time off in the event of an outbreak.
· Be mindful of employment laws. Depending on your number of employees, you may be required to provide your staff with up to 12 weeks of leave time under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California equivalent, the California Family Rights Act. You are also required to keep employees’ medical information confidential, and it can only be shared in limited circumstances. Do not discriminate against employees in a protected class, such as individuals with ties to Mexico (where the swine flu virus is alleged to have originated), or qualified individuals with a disability.
For more information, Snell & Wilmer has prepared an online legal alert regarding this subject, which is available at swlaw.com.