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EMPLOYMENT LAW ALERT
April 2009

What To Do With the Piggy Flu
*By Pat J. Hoban

Zashin & Rich Co., L.P.A. has received an increasing number of calls from employers asking how to manage the potential for "swine flu" (also referred to as the "N1H1 virus") outbreaks in the workplace. While the effects of the virus have been limited thus far, employers should take steps to limit the effect on their employees and their businesses. This alert provides information designed to assist employers in answering employees' questions, preparing the workplace, and maintaining operations should the current outbreak become more widespread.

Resources:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") and the Center for Disease Control ("CDC") websites have a wealth of information concerning swine flu. This information is updated regularly and includes specific guidance for employers.

  1. Employers should review regularly OSHA (http://www.osha.gov)
    and the CDC's (http://www.cdc.gov) websites for updates on the situation.

  2. OSHA's website includes lengthy guidance on preparing
    your workplace for an influenza pandemic at:
    http://www.osha.gov/Publications/influenza_pandemic.html.

  3. The CDC website links to Pandemicflu.gov
    which features guidance on workplace planning at:
    http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/workplaceplanning/index.html,
    which includes checklists for developing your company's health
    and operational response plans.

  4. The CDC has also provided specific guidance for travel at:
    http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluUS.aspx.

General Precautionary Steps for Employers:

The resources listed above contain a great deal of information about swine flu transmission, symptoms, and ways to reduce the chance of contracting the virus as well as steps employers should take to maintain operations in the event of a wider outbreak. The following is a summary of some of the more basic steps every employer should consider:

1. Communicate in writing with employees about the situation, notify them where they can obtain more news and information, and state that the Company is committed to keeping the workplace as healthy and safe as possible. Employers whose employees are represented by a union should contact the union representatives (e.g., directly or through a labor management or plant safety committees) to discuss the Company's plans to address the situation.

2. Request that employees report immediately to their supervisors if they experience any flu symptoms and require that supervisors notify Human Resources immediately upon any report of flu symptoms.

3. Review the company's Family and Medical Leave Act and other leave policies and encourage employees to stay at home if they experience any flu symptoms.

4. Remind employees of the need to maintain a sanitary workplace, to practice good hygiene and to wash hands frequently.

5. Require employees who believe that they contracted swine flu at work or because of work to complete a First Report of Accident form for workers' compensation purposes.

6. Ensure that any Company representative does not disclose confidential medical information about any employee.

7. Consider wage and hour issues if an exempt employee cannot come to work for any portion of a workweek due to swine flu.

8. Document any actions taken to respond to any actual report of swine flu.

9. Document any request for any workplace adjustment as a result of an employee who suffers from the swine flu.

10. Communicate with any cleaning services about additional steps to sanitize the workplace.

11. Discontinue nonessential travel to locations the CDC identifies as having high illness transmission rates (e.g., Mexico).
http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluMexico.aspx

12. Encourage employees to contact the company's Employee Assistance Program, if any, to deal with any stress that might result from the swine flu.

Information, communication and planning are the best ways for employers to best prepare their employees and their businesses for an expanded swine flu outbreak. If you have any specific questions regarding swine flu information and workplace preparedness, please contact Pat Hoban at 216.696.4441 (pjh@zrlaw.com).


This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for professional legal advice and its receipt does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions concerning any of these articles or any other employment law issues, please contact Stephen S. Zashin at 216.696.4441.
© Copyright 2009 – All Rights Reserved Zashin & Rich Co., L.P.A.


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With offices in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, Zashin & Rich Co., L.P.A. represents employers in all aspects of employment, labor, and workers' compensation law. The firm represents private and publicly traded companies as well as public sector employers throughout Ohio and the United States. Z&R defends employers in all aspects of private and public sector traditional labor law, employment litigation, and workers' compensation matters. The firm also counsels employers on a variety of daily workplace issues including, but not limited to, employee handbooks, non-compete agreements, social media, workplace injuries, investigations, disciplinary actions, and terminations. Z&R publishes its quarterly newsletter, "Employment Law Quarterly," for its clients and friends. The ELQ and information about the firm may be found at www.zrlaw.com.

 

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