COVID-19 > Time Off
- Can a supervisor tell an employee to leave work if they are sick?
Yes. Doing so helps to reinforce the message that employees should stay home when they are sick. Employees who show symptoms of a potentially contagious illness can be asked to leave work and stay home until they are symptom free.
Because it is allergy season, remember that a simple cough may not be a sign of coronavirus or flu; however, having fever or shortness of breath in addition to cough may point to those more serious ailments.Employers should not ask too much so as to identify a specific condition an employee may be suffering from: Per the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits disability-related inquiries unless they are job-related and consistent with business necessity. But such an inquiry may be job-related and consistent with business necessity if an ill employee poses a direct threat to the health of others.”
Employers should be consistent in enforcing any policy of asking employees to go home fairly and equally across their employee base so as not to be seen as having a bias against particular employees. Have the conversation with the employee in private, and it may be best to have both the frontline manager and a representative from HR or upper management present.
- If an employee becomes sick or is under stay at home orders, how will PTO be used?
First, you’ll want to establish if your employee is eligible for Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) under FFCRA. FFCRA Paid Leave is covered in a section above, including which employees are eligible and benefits.
- If the employer has a PTO plan in place, will employees be required to use that up even if it is a mandated quarantine?
Depending on the company’s PTO policy, hourly employees may choose to use PTO or take the time off without pay; however, the employer cannot force the employee to use their PTO before the mandated paid sick leave.
Because exempt employees have a guaranteed pay, the norm is to require the use of PTO during weeks when any work has been performed as well as weeks where no work was performed.
- Do we have to pay employees if they run out of PTO? Do we have to pay nonexempt employees? If not, can we pay them something to help them out? If an employee has no PTO, do we need to extend PTO to cover the missed hours?
No, you do not have to pay employees if they run out of PTO though you could opt to do so. For example, you could enact a specific leave policy for employees affected by coronavirus if you’d like. However, if you opt to offer a special leave policy, you may want to set up that it will not be in force when this specific situation is no longer an emphasis.
Nonexempt employees who do not have paid sick leave are not required to be paid for their time off of work unless there is a collective bargaining agreement in place. If a nonexempt employee is quarantined during the course of business travel, they should still be paid for any time travelling home.
Be sure that employees who work remotely are paid for all time worked.
- Are we required to pay an employee who refuses to come work because of concerns about contracting coronavirus?
While employees may be fearful of contracting coronavirus, employers do not need to provide another accommodation unless there is a real potential that the employee could contract the disease in performing their job. An employee may refuse to work, but per SHRM, “If the employer can establish that there is no basis for any exposure to the disease, the employee does not have to be paid during the time period the employee refuses to work.”
- We had an employee call into work because his wife is sick with flu-like symptoms. Should we be concerned? And what can we require of him before returning to work?
It is recommended that you allow the employee to stay home to care for her. If, by chance, his spouse does have something contagious, and he catches it, whether it be the flu or something else after he requested the time off, you would not want the exposure from other employees catching it because you made him come to work until he showed signs, such as a fever.
Find out how long the employee expects to be out. You will be fine asking general questions, such as has her doctor indicated if what she has is contagious or not, how long she is expected to need help with her care, and so on. You can also ask the employee to give you an update for each day he will be out if he doesn’t give you a definite return date. It is also fine to require him to call before the end of the day each day to give you an update for the next day. This is a reasonable request because you need time to schedule others to cover his duties. You could ask all of this through email, but it may be quicker and more effective to have a phone call and then follow up with an email to summarize everything discussed and agreed upon.
If the employee is staying home to care for a family member, be mindful of FMLA requirements as well as the potential that this employee is eligible for paid leave if they meet the requirements of qualifying reasons for leave.
- If we cut hours for the employees we have left, can we reject them trying to use vacation time to bring their hours up to the old rates?
Yes, you do not have to pay vacation for hours they are not scheduled to work. PTO is for paid time off from scheduled work.