Oregon State University

Employee Absences

As a supervisor, what preventative measures should I encourage employees to take?

Encourage all persons to effectively cover their cough or sneeze and use good hand hygiene.

  • Hand washing facilities including running water and liquid hand soap should be readily accessible; alcohol-based hand sanitizers may be used if hands are not visibly soiled.
  • Plan ahead to ensure that enough alcohol-based hand sanitizers are available for situations where it is known that hand washing facilities may not be available, for example during outdoor events.
  • Ensure all areas and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact (such as doorknobs, faucets, and, handrails) are regularly cleaned or immediately cleaned when visibly soiled.

What policies or collective bargaining agreement provisions apply in the case of a flu outbreak or pandemic?

University operations will continue to operate according to normal policy and procedures, personnel policies, rules and collective bargaining agreements, except in the event of a declared state of emergency by the state or county.

Is the H1N1 flu considered a ‘serious health condition’ under OFLA or FMLA?

You should treat the flu like you would any other illness. Although flu is generally not a serious health condition under FMLA/OFLA, H1N1 flu can be a qualifying event if it meets the serious health condition criteria (for example, absence plus treatment, or in-patient hospitalization). For information about eligibility and procedures to request FMLA/OFLA review, see the FMLA/OFLA information at http://oregonstate.edu/admin/hr/fmla.htm.

If you need to request FMLA/OFLA leave for your own serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition under FMLA or OFLA, contact OSU FMLA/OFLA Coordinator at 541-737-8302.

The University’s sick leave policy allows an employee to use sick leave if the employee has had an “exposure to contagious disease”. What is an exposure to H1N1 flu?

The current guidance from Oregon Public Health is that any person with respiratory illness symptoms and a temperature of at least 100 degrees should be considered exposed and infectious. Some types of exposure are simple to identify, and others depend on specific facts and circumstances. A person who is the primary care-giver for a family member with the flu could likely have been exposed. Exposure to H1N1 can also mean that a person has been exposed to respiratory fluids, for instance droplets or aerosols that can be transmitted to another person within about 3 feet of an infected person’s uncovered sneeze. We encourage anyone who is asymptomatic and believes an exposure has occurred to use sick leave at least through the 1-3 day incubation period before flu becomes evident. Check at www.flu.oregon.gov for the latest information how long after an exposure a person will have symptoms.

Can I require an employee to obtain a release from a doctor before I allow her or him back in the work place? For example, an employee who was on vacation in an affected area is experiencing influenza like symptoms, and extended the time off by taking additional leave.

Yes, if there is reason to believe the employee may be a health hazard to themselves or others or that the employee’s health condition would interfere with his or her ability to perform the job. Refer to the collective bargaining agreement if the employee is represented or contact the Office of Human Resources.

If the employee’s condition meets the criteria of a ‘serious health condition’ for FMLA/OFLA purposes follow the normal Family and Medical Leave procedures, including medical certification and return-to-work release practices. The employee’s department pays uninsured expenses related to Medical Certifications required by the department. An employee must submit receipts for uninsured expenses for reimbursement.

If an employee comes to work and is exhibiting influenza type symptoms, what options are available to the employee?

The employee should check-in with his/her supervisor and indicated that the/she needs to go home on sick leave. With prior supervisory approval, the employee may be allowed to use other accrued leave or leave without pay. Telecommuting may be an option for some positions. The employee’s supervisor will determine if telecommuting is acceptable. The telecommuting policy and form is available at http://oregonstate.edu/admin/hristeam/forms/TeleCommAgree.pdf (PDF).

Can I, as a supervisor, send an employee home that appears to exhibit influenza type symptoms?

Yes, a supervisor may require an employee to leave work if there is reason to believe that the employee is a health hazard to others or that the employee’s illness is interfering with his or her ability to perform the job. If a supervisor sends an employee home, for both FLSA Exempt and Non-Exempt employees, the department/unit will pay the employee for the reminder of the shift for that day only. The employee would record the paid leave as “Other” and note the paid leave was at the supervisor’s direction.

If I feel like I am experiencing influenza like symptoms and I voluntarily decide to go home for the day, what leave am I to use?

You are to report your absence as sick leave. You may request supervisor approval to use other accrued leave or leave without pay, however, your supervisor is not required to approve it if you have sick leave available to use. Refer to the University’s Leave Administration Policies and Guidelines available at http://oregonstate.edu/admin/hr/leave_admin_pol.pdf (PDF) for additional information about leave usage, accrual and reporting.

If I exhibit or experience influenza type symptoms and go home from work either voluntarily or non-voluntarily, can my supervisor require me to get a release from my doctor prior to returning to the workplace?

Yes, but it is not recommended unless there is reason to believe that your return to work would be a health hazard to you or others or that the your health condition would interfere with your ability to perform your job.

As of August 2009, the Oregon Department of Public Health recommends that employees who experience flu symptoms should not return to work until they have been free of fever (without fever reducing medication) for at least 24 hours. A doctor’s release should not be required unless there are medical circumstances other than flu that has resolved. However, returning employees should be advised to exercise good hand-washing and cough control practices when they return.

Your supervisor should provide you notice if a release from a doctor may be required before you are permitted to return to work. Your department pays any uninsured expenses related to medical certifications. You must submit receipts for uninsured expenses to receive reimbursement.

If employee ‘A’ comes to work ill and employee ‘B’ is concerned about getting sick from being exposed to employee ‘A’, what options does employee ‘B’ have?

Employee ‘B’ may request to be absent from work, subject to supervisory approval, through use of vacation, compensatory time, or leave without pay. At the supervisor’s discretion and where acceptable, telecommuting may be permitted. This situation does not excuse an employee from performing his or her assigned duties.

Where do I find information about the University’s Telecommuting Policy?

The telecommuting policy and form is available at http://oregonstate.edu/admin/hristeam/forms/TeleCommAgree.pdf (PDF). Should you have questions, please call the Office of Human Resources.

At what point can a supervisor discuss health issues with an employee?

When there is a reasonable belief that the employee is ill and the illness may affect the health or safety of others, the supervisor should raise the issue with the employee. Health information is considered confidential under the ADA, so the supervisor and other management personnel with knowledge must not disclose health information to the extent possible. If a manager observes an employee not feeling well, the manager may inquire, “Are you feeling OK?” but should not ask the employee what specifically is wrong.

If my child’s school or child care closes and I have to stay home with my child who is not ill, what type of leave do I use?

Subject to supervisory approval, you may request to use vacation, compensatory time or leave without pay. Telecommuting may be an option for some positions. Your supervisor will determine if telecommuting is acceptable.

Do I need a doctor’s note to return to work if I have been off work to care for someone with the flu?

Only if you were exposed to someone who has the flu and you experience flu-like symptoms. If you experiences symptoms, we recommend that you stay home and use sick leave. A supervisor can request a doctor’s note if there is reason to believe that your return to work may present a health hazard to you or others, or that your health condition interferes with your ability to perform your job. If the department/unit requires medical certification to return to work, the department/unit is responsible to reimburse you for uninsured medical expenses related to obtaining the certification.

Remember: It takes from 1 to 3 days after exposure to H1N1 for a person to show signs of the flu. Employees who have been exposed should be responsible about not returning to work before the end of the incubation period of the virus, to avoid infecting others.

If my child gets the flu and someone other than me cares for the child, can I come to work?

Refer to the guidance above in the questions about exposure to a contagious disease.

What happens if I need to stay home to care for my child but I don’t have accrued sick leave?

You may request, in the following order until all applicable leave is exhausted, compensatory time, personal leave, or leave without pay. Alternatively, your supervisor may determine if telecommuting is appropriate.

If I work in a direct public contact position, and am reluctant to come to work for fear of exposure from the public, what options are available to me?

You may request, subject to supervisory approval, to use vacation leave or compensatory time to remain at home. Refer to the Leave Administration Policies and Guidelines located at http://oregonstate.edu/admin/hr/leave_admin_pol.pdf (PDF). Subject to operational requirements and the discretion of management, you may use a mask, hand sanitizer, or wipes, if this will help you feel comfortable in the performance of your duties.

Is a department required to purchase masks, hand sanitizer, or any personal protective equipment for employees?

Typically, an employer makes such purchases at the discretion of management. If required because of specific occupations, a department’s management would pay for such items.