What should a supervisor do if s/he believes an employee is exhibiting signs of the flu?

As with any illness, any medical diagnosis by a supervisor should be avoided. However, supervisors are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment, to include the well-being of all employees. As such, an organization may find it necessary to prohibit an employee from remaining at work, but only when sufficient evidence indicates the employee is physically unable to perform the job or poses a risk to him/herself or others (based on guidance from the CDC or other health officials).

When a supervisor observes an employee exhibiting signs of illness, s/he should express general concern regarding the employee’s health and the health of others in the workplace, and remind the employee that s/he may request leave to seek medical attention and/or to go home. If the employee is able to work, the supervisor may direct the employee to telework in accordance with local policy.

If the employee does not wish to take leave and if telework is not feasible, the employee may be ordered to leave the worksite and placed in a non-pay status. Involuntary placement in a non-pay status would be equivalent to a suspension (i.e., adverse action). Courts should consult their local adverse action policy to see if suspensions are covered and follow local procedures accordingly. Courts considering placing employees in a non-pay status should also contact the Office of Human Resources, Advisory Services Branch, for guidance.