By George J. Miller
As if the flood of information and guidance from OSHA and the CDC were not enough to help employers and employees deal with the threat of H1N1 in the workplace, Congress has now gotten into the act. On November 3rd, the Emergency Influenza Containment Act (H.R. 3991) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would guarantee a maximum of five paid sick days for employees who are sent home or directed to stay home by their employer because they have symptoms of a contagious illness, or have been in close contact with an individual who has symptoms of a contagious illness, such as the H1N1 flu virus.
As if this were not enough, a second bill, the Pandemic Protection for Workers, Families and Businesses Act (S.2790/H.R. 4092) was introduced on November 17th in the House and Senate. This bill would give employees up to seven paid sick days to use for leave due to their own flu-like symptoms, or for medical diagnosis or preventative care, or to care for a sick child, or to care for a child whose school or child care facility has been closed due to the flu.
Both bills would take effect fifteen days after being signed into law but would automatically terminate after two years. They would apply only to employers of fifteen or more employees.
If both bills are enacted into law, it is not clear whether there would be circumstances under which an employee could stack the leave entitlements under the two laws and take up to twelve paid days off.