Thursday, May 7, 2009

EEOC chimes in on swine flu with guides on how to prepare and remain Title VII/ADA compliant

We’re well into week two of the swine flu, and this story continues to have legs. Now, the EEOC is offering its opinion on how employers can prepare for a workplace outbreak while remaining compliant with employment discrimination laws. It released two documents: Employment Discrimination and the 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus (Swine Flu) and ADA-Compliant Employer Preparedness For the H1N1 Flu Virus.

The former simply reminds employers, “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of national origin, for example, discrimination against Mexicans.” In other words, do not discriminate against Mexicans simply because there is a slight chance they might be carrying the virus.

The latter goes more detail about how to prepare a workplace for an outbreak within the limits of the ADA. In addition to running through the general rules dealing with disability-related medical inquiries and medical exams, the agency also provides a brief, but helpful FAQ on issues such as how to ask employees about exposure, infection control practices, personal protective equipment, and telecommuting.

The most useful aspect of the EEOC’s guidance is a sample ADA-Compliant Pre-Pandemic Employee Survey. It is designed to assist employers in asking employees about factors, including chronic medical conditions, that may cause them to miss work in the event of a pandemic:

Directions:  Answer “yes” to the whole question without specifying the reason or reasons that apply to you.  Simply check “yes” or “no” at the bottom.

In the event of a pandemic, would you be unable to come to work because of any 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 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 __________


As I said last week, businesses should prepare for an infectious disease outbreak, but not panic over the possibility. This EEOC guidance, while not groundbreaking, does provide employers another arrow in their quiver of preparedness.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus.

For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or