Tag Archives: employer

Hepatitis A – A Public Health Emergency: Employers Should Be Prepared

On August 1, 2019, Florida’s Surgeon General declared a Public Health Emergency to address the increase in Hepatitis A cases in Florida. From January 1 to July 27, 2019, there were two thousand and thirty-four (2,034) reported cases of Hepatitis A in Florida. That amount surpasses the number of cases reported for the entire year of 2018. Workers across various industries are not only at risk of contracting Hepatitis A, but also transmitting the virus to customers and/or co-workers. Before a worker is diagnosed, employers should be proactive and institute risk control and response measures.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious disease that attacks the liver. Symptoms usually start within 28 days of exposure to the virus. People infected with Hepatitis A are most contagious from two weeks before onset of symptoms to one week afterwards. Of particular concern are food service workers; in Florida, approximately 5% of Hepatitis A cases have been identified as food service workers.

If a worker is diagnosed with Hepatitis A the health care provider that issued the diagnosis must immediately report to Florida’s Department of Health (“FDOH”) the name of the infected individual. The infected individual will be interviewed by FDOH, and then FDOH will work to identify close contacts of the ill person. Rest assured, this process includes the FDOH reaching out to the employer to ascertain if co-workers or customers will need to be notified of potential exposure.

Florida’s news media regularly reports the names and locations of business where infected individuals worked in the days prior to their diagnosis. Further, it is not uncommon to see social media posts about businesses with workers diagnosed with Hepatitis A. Therefore, employers should be ready to act with a communications plan in the event one of their workers is identified as having been diagnosed with Hepatitis A. Such a plan must consider the infected worker’s right to keep their health care information private. Often a quick and effective communication plan can minimize the potentially devastating consequences of being identified as an employer that has had workers diagnosed with the disease.

For more information of Hepatitis A and appropriate preventative measures see the Florida Health website. 

Steven D. Brownlee
sbrownlee@williamsparker.com
941-552-2567

Restrictions on Vaping and Texting Go Into Effect: Today is Gonna be the Day That the Florida Legislature Is Gonna Throw It Back to Employers*

By now you should’ve somehow realized that today (July 1, 2019) the amendment to the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, which implements the 2018 constitutional amendment prohibiting vaping in the workplace, goes into effect.

Hopefully, businesses and employers realize what they have gotta do now that the use of e-cigarettes in indoor workplaces is prohibited. The word is on the street that indoor workplaces will become an oasis for non-smokers – who likely never really had a doubt that that the fire in the hearts of vaping employees would eventually go out.

Employers can no longer choose to allow employees to vape indoors. Those using e-cigarettes will now be relegated to designated smoking areas–-presuming employers provide smoking areas. Although we don’t believe any vaping employees will feel that great about this decision now, it is the law, and maybe it’s gonna be something that saves them.

Beyond that, all roads that employees have to drive are winding, and now all the lights from their cellphones won’t be blinding. Because, as of today, texting while driving has become a primary offense rather than being a secondary offense. There are many things that we’d like to say about this, but primarily, this means employee drivers can be pulled over for texting while driving without violating any other traffic law. Maybe, this will be a law that saves people.

Regardless, employers will need to throw it back to employees who are driving while working, and make sure that they somehow realize what they’re not to do. We don’t believe that any managers should refrain from training their subordinates and requiring employees to avoid texting-and-driving. That way, the managers can also be the ones who save their employee drivers and protect their employers’ businesses. Read more about the new texting law.

Both of these laws—after all—could have positive consequences on the health and well-being of workers and be the laws that save them.

* see ”Wonderwall” Oasis 1995

Special thanks to Associate John Getty for his assistance with this blog post.

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2558

FMLA: Forgetting Minutiae Leads to (legal) Actions (Part III)

After providing a general overview of the convoluted maze that is the FMLA, explaining  which employers are subject to the FMLA, and describing which employees are eligible for leave, we now continue our journey by addressing when an employee can take FMLA.

Eligible employees of covered employers may take up to 12 workweeks of leave during any
12-month period for one, or more, of the following reasons:

1. The birth of the employee’s son or daughter, or to care for the newborn child.
2. For placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care.
3. To care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health
condition.
4. Because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employee’s job.
5. Because of any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse,      son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty status).

These reasons—along with a few others involving military service members that we will address in a future blog post—are known as “qualifying reasons” under the FMLA. Some of these qualifying reasons are straightforward while others involve important nuances. For today’s post, we’re going to address the issues that come up with points 1 and 2 above (the birth, adoption, or fostering of children) through another series of questions and answers.

I have an employee who qualifies for FMLA leave, and the employee is about to have a new child. What rights does that employee have?

As noted above, an employee who qualifies for FMLA can take up to 12 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period for the birth or care of a newborn child.

Does an employee have to take all the qualifying leave at one time?

It depends. An eligible employee may use intermittent or reduced schedule leave after the birth of a healthy child or placement of a healthy child for adoption or foster care, but only if the employer agrees.  If the employer does not agree, then the time off will be all at one time.

Does an employee need to take all of their FMLA leave for the birth of the child right after the child is born?

Not necessarily, an employee can take leave for the birth of a child any time up to 12 months after the child’s birth.

 Are both parents entitled to leave for the birth of their child?

Generally, both parents are entitled to leave for the birth of the employee’s child. However, if both spouses work for the same employer, the total combined leave taken by both spouses for the birth of the child or to care for the child after birth may be limited to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave during any 12-month period. In other words, both spouses have 12 weeks combined for the newborn child. Thus, the mother and father could both take 6 weeks each. Or the mother could take 9 weeks, and the father 3 weeks. Alternatively, if the mother takes 12 weeks, then her spouse would not be entitled to any FMLA leave.

Where both spouses use a portion of the total 12-week FMLA leave entitlement for the birth of a child, each spouse would be entitled to the difference between the amount he or she has taken individually and 12 weeks for FMLA leave for other purposes.

The foregoing is also true for the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care. For purposes of the FMLA, a spouse includes a married husband or wife (husband or wife refers to the other person with whom an individual entered into marriage), which includes same-sex spouses.

As noted above, the first post in our series on FMLA summarized the steps an employer should follow when dealing with the FMLA labyrinth and addressed which employers are covered by the Act. The second post explained which employees are eligible for FMLA leave. The next FMLA post in this series will address the qualifying reasons involving an employee’s own serious health condition or the serious health condition of family members.

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2558

FMLA: Forgetting Minutiae Leads to (legal) Actions – Part II

As we continue through the convoluted maze of arcane rules known as the FMLA, we turn our focus to what makes an employee eligible for FMLA leave.

Generally, an employee of a covered employer is eligible to take FMLA leave, if the employee satisfies three requirements. They are:

(1)  the employee has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months;

(2)  the employee has been employed by the employer at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding the commencement of the leave; and

(3)  the employee is employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles of the worksite.

These requirements do not apply to flight attendants and flight crew members. Persons in such positions are subject to special eligibility requirements that are not covered in this series.

Although these three requirements may seem pretty straightforward, they are not as clear cut as they appear. Accordingly, below you will find a few questions and answers designed to assist in understanding the concept of the “covered employee.”

Does the 12 months of service have to be consecutive?

No. The 12 months of service need not be consecutive. Generally, any combination of 52 weeks equals 12 months. Even so, a seven year break in service with the employer generally cuts off any prior service except in certain limited circumstances. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, military service covered by The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) or written agreement, including a collective bargaining agreement.

When should it be determined if the employee meets the months of service requirement?

The determination of whether an employee has been employed by the employer for a total of 12 months must be made as of the date the FMLA leave is to start.

How are the hours of service calculated?

The FLMA’s definition of “hours of service” applies for the calculation of 1,250 hours. Accordingly, hours of service does not include those hours for which an employee is paid but does not work, such as holidays, paid vacation, and sick leave. Hours worked does include time worked as a part-time, temporary, or seasonal employee.

An employee returning from USERRA-covered military service is credited with the hours of service that would have been performed but for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service in determining the employee’s eligibility for FMLA-qualifying leave.

If an issue arises with respect to employee coverage, the Department of Labor takes the position that the employer has the burden of showing that the employee has not met the hours of service requirement.

When should it be determined if the employee meets the hours of service requirement?

The determination of whether an employee meets the hours of service requirement must be made as of the date the requested FMLA leave is to start.

How does an employer determine if there are 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of employee’s worksite?

First, it has to be determined where the employee’s worksite is. An employee’s worksite is the site where an employee reports. If the employee does not travel to a specific location to work, then the worksite is the location from where the employee receives assignments.

For employees with no fixed worksite (e.g., construction workers, transportation workers, salespersons), the worksite is the site that is assigned as their home base, from which their work is assigned, or to which they report. With very few exemptions, an employee’s personal residence is not considered a worksite.

The 75-mile distance is measured by surface miles, using surface transportation over public streets, roads, highways, and waterways, by the shortest route from the facility where the employee needing leave is employed.

While public-sector employers are covered regardless of the number of employees employed, to be an eligible employee entitled to take FMLA leave, the public-sector employee must still be employed at a worksite in which the employer employs at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

When should an employer determine if there are 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of employee’s worksite?

The determination of whether 50 employees are employed within 75 miles of the worksite is made when the employee gives notice of the need for leave.

What happens when an employee does not meet all three requirements until after the employee’s need for leave has begun?

An employee’s full FMLA rights are triggered as of FMLA eligibility. An employer cannot designate leave happening before the eligibility date as FMLA leave; and therefore, the employee becomes entitled to the full 12 weeks of FMLA leave in addition to any previously taken leave.

The first post in our series on FMLA summarized the steps an employer should follow when dealing with the FMLA labyrinth. The next FMLA posts in this series will address the FMLA’s original qualifying reasons for leave and then the qualifying reasons added in 2008.

Jennifer Fowler-Hermes
jfowler-hermes@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2558