The prospect of an H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic has prompted your company to update its emergency preparedness plan. In particular, you’re interested in learning how a pandemic might impact staffing levels. In light of the Americans with Disabilities Act, how can you ask employees about factors (including chronic medical conditions) that might cause them to miss work in the event of a pandemic?
An employer may survey its workforce to gather personal information needed for pandemic preparation if the employer asks broad questions that are not limited to disability-related inquiries. An inquiry would not be disability-related if it identified non-medical reasons for absence during a pandemic (e.g., mandatory school closures or curtailed public transportation) on an equal footing with medical reasons (e.g., chronic illnesses that weaken immunity).
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission developed the following ADA-compliant survey that can be given to all employees before a pandemic.
ADA-Compliant Pre-Pandemic Employee Survey
Directions: Answer “yes” to the whole question without specifying the reason or reasons that apply to you. Simply check “yes” or “no” at the bottom.
In the event of a pandemic, would you be unable to come to work because of any of the following reasons:
- If schools or day-care centers were closed, you would need to care for a child;
- If other services were unavailable, you would need to care for other dependents;
- If public transport were sporadic or unavailable, you would be unable to travel to work; and/or
- If you or a member of your household fall into one of the categories identified by the CDC as being at high risk for serious complications from the pandemic influenza virus, you would be advised by public health authorities not to come to work (e.g., pregnant women; persons with compromised immune systems due cancer, HIV, history of organ transplant or other medical conditions; persons less than 65 years of age with underlying chronic conditions; or persons over 65).
Answer: YES ________ NO ________
Source: EEOC Technical Assistance, ADA-Compliant Employer Preparedness for the H1N1 Flu Virus, http://eeoc.gov/facts/h1n1_flu.html, posted May 4, 2009.