Date: September 23, 2009
To: Deans, Directors, and Department Heads
From: Vivian Fernández
Subject: H1N1 Guidence

Over the course of the past several months, members of the university community have received communications regarding suggested health precautions and strategies to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus. This is to provide additional guidance to supervisors in managing H1N1 virus related employment issues.

As a preventive measure, we ask that you meet with your employees as soon as possible to discuss the information contained in the communications to the university community related to the H1N1 virus. In concert with the guidelines issued by the CDC, employees should be advised that if they exhibit flu like symptoms, they should stay home. Employees should remain home from work until they are fever free (without the use of fever-reducing medications) for at least 24 hours. This is an important measure in protecting co-workers from the spread of the virus.

Should an employee call out of work reporting flu like symptoms or H1N1, generally, you handle the situation in the same manner that you would any other illness an employee may contract. Employees are provided sick time pursuant to university policy, and collective negotiation agreements. However, per the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation, we are providing flexibility of paid time off policies during this time. If an employee does not have any sick time available, he or she has the option to utilize accrued vacation, administrative, or personal leave days. If an employee who has no paid time off available has chosen to stay home due to having flu like symptoms or per the instructions of a physician, as a supervisor you have the discretion to determine how to charge such time. In these cases I encourage you to seek the advice of the Office of Labor Relations to advise you on a course of action.

If an employee comes into work exhibiting flu like symptoms such as high fever, fatigue, sweating, body aches, etc, you should encourage the employee to go home. If the employee does not wish to go home, you may contact Occupational Health to seek guidance. If there is a question as to whether an employee should be allowed to return to work due to concerns regarding the spread of the virus, supervisors should consult with the Office of Labor Relations.

Below are some Frequently Asked Questions that may prove useful in the coming months. If you need assistance during this time, please do not hesitate to contact University Human Resources.

Frequently Asked Questions from Supervisors

1) Can I send an employee home from work if she is showing flu-like symptoms?

If you have an employee that is showing flu like symptoms (e.g., fever above 100ºF, cough and/or sore throat, body aches, headache, chills) you may direct her to leave work. If your employee appears too ill to drive, offer to call family member to pick her up. If she asks for an ambulance or appears very ill, call an ambulance.

In advising the employee, be mindful of current CDC guidance – it is generally recommended that employees remain home from work until they are fever free (without the use of fever-reducing medications) for at least 24 hours. Advise your employee to stay home and that Occupational Health (OH) may contact her by phone to discuss her condition and advise her when she may safely return to work. Additionally, OH will advise you of the estimated date of return to work of the employee.

2) I asked an employee to go home whom I believe is showing flu-like symptoms, but he is refusing to go. What should I do?

If employee is reluctant to go home, you may call OH and transfer the call to your employee for discussion with a physician or nurse. After a discussion with him, OH will advise both employee and you whether the employee will go home and expected duration of absence. OH will also contact your employee the next day as per earlier discussion and will provide direction to him about when to return to work. If your employee is sent home, he may return to work only when he has been fever free (and off Tylenol or other fever medications) for the past 24 hours.

3) If I do send an employee home, can I require that she use sick time that is available?

Yes. Regular sick leave absence policies apply in this situation. However, before sending the employee home, you will want to consider certain factors such as:

  • Has the employee shown a progression of illness over a period of time?
  • Is she showing outward signs of physical discomfort such as sweating or fatigue?
  • Has the employee recently been out of work for another reason?

Once considering these factors, you can decide the appropriate course of action in directing your employee as to whether she should go home. Additionally, you can call OH at 732-932-8254 when an employee is showing flu like symptoms in order to seek professional medical advice.

4) I have an employee who has flu like symptoms and was directed by his physician to stay home for several days; however, he doesn’t have any sick time available. How do I charge the time?

Per university policy you may advise the employee to use other paid time off available such as unused vacation, administrative leave, or personal holiday time.

5) Should I inform other employees in my department that one of their co-workers has been diagnosed with H1N1?

Communicating a medical condition of an employee to other individuals, other than medical or human resource administrators, is prohibited. This is considered confidential employee information. However, you may communicate to employees in the same facility/unit that an employee has been diagnosed with the H1N1 influenza. In doing so, advise employees that if they believe they have been exposed to a person with H1N1 influenza they should continue to go to work unless they develop flu-like symptoms. Your employees should monitor their health every day and take necessary precautions.

6) Am I required to report any case of the H1N1 virus to any university department?

As stated above, you should contact OH if an employee has a seen a physician and has been diagnosed with H1N1.

7) One of my employees is home as directed by his physician, but he says he feel s good enough to work. Can I allow him to work from home?

If you feel that you require the employee to complete work, then you may consider allowing him to work from home. In doing so, you may want to consider the following:

  • Hours the employee is expected to work each day and confirmation and documentation of work hours
  • How you and the employee will maintain communication
  • Security of university information being handled in the employee’s home

If you are considering this course of action, it is advised that you contact the Office of Labor Relations for guidance.

In addition, you should notify OH that your employee has called out sick with flu or flu like symptoms. OH may contact employee at home to discuss his condition and then notify both you and the employee of estimated date of return to work. OH will also advise your employee to return to work only when they have been fever free (and off Tylenol or other fever medications) for the past 24 hours.