In the Headlines
October 27, 2009

Protecting the Workplace

Human Resources Executive
Labor, Employment and Benefits Partner Erika Royal was quoted in the article "Protecting the Workplace" featured in Human Resources Executive and published on October 27.

The article discussed precautions that should be taken to protect the workplace from the H1N1 virus and what employers are allowed to do without violating workers' rights. While managers typically expect workers to stay home who have the seasonal flu, the H1N1 virus has been cause for more elevated measures due to the public's lack of immunity to it. Some organizations, such as Pima County, Ariz. have implemented policies requiring employees to be sent home if they exhibit flu-like symptoms such as a temperature above a certain level.

Ms. Royal weighed in on boundaries that employers face in balancing the rights of employees with maintaining a healthy work environment. She stated that while managers cannot force an employee to take their own temperature, they are allowed to inquire about obvious symptoms such as high fever, coughing or sneezing. Ms. Royal added that employers are within their right to send employees home and can require him or her to visit their doctor if they are believed to be a threat to a safe work environment.

However, employees who refuse to come to work because other workers have the H1N1 virus can be subject to discipline. Ms. Royal suggested that organizations "first try to be understanding and educate these workers about the things you are doing to keep them safe."

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