As concern over H1N1 and influenza-related illnesses continues to spread, legislation that would require employers to provide up to five days of paid sick leave per year to workers afflicted with influenza or other, similar contagious illness has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill applies to employers with 15 or more employees where workers comply with the employer’s directive to go home or stay home from work because of a contagious illness. The proposed legislation, titled the Emergency Influenza Containment Act (H.R. 3991), was introduced by House Education and Labor Committee leader Rep. George Miller (D-Cal.) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee leader Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Cal.).

If passed, the bill would apply to both full time and part time employees who are “directed” or “advised” to leave work or not come in “because the employer believes the employee has symptoms of a contagious illness, or has been in close contact with an individual who has symptoms of a contagious illness.” Contagious illness is defined in the legislation and includes “influenza-like-illnesses,” such as H1N1.

Covered employees would be entitled to an amount of paid sick leave calculated based on the employee’s regular rate of pay and scheduled hours of work. Small employers and companies that already provide five or more paid sick days per year would be exempt from the bill’s requirements.  The measure also would prohibit employers from firing, disciplining, or retaliating against workers who comply with the employer’s directive to stay home or not come to work.

The Emergency Influenza Containment Act may move quickly as a result of mounting concerns regarding influenza-related illnesses. The House Education and Labor Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the legislation during the week of November 16. The Emergency Influenza Containment Act would expire two years from enactment.

Carrie Jabinsky drafted this post.