Flu IQ: Take two aspirins and consult the FLSA

The simple fact is employees who come to work sick can make everyone else sick too. It’s in the company’s interest to prevent employees from passing their germs around. You can encourage employees who come down with the flu to stay home, but you must stay within the guidelines set by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Nap time! Employees who are nonexempt under the FLSA don’t have to be paid if they call in sick and don’t work from home. They may use their accrued time off, if they have any. Watch out: If they work overtime during a week they’re out and use their accrued time off, don’t include that payment in their regular rates when calculating their overtime rates. Reason: The payment is for idle time, which isn’t included in the regular rate calculation.

PAYROLL PRACTICE TIP: If nonexempts do work from home, you must pay them for this time, regardless of whether they asked permission to work from home. Key: Tell employees that every work hour must be recorded and that estimates aren’t acceptable.

Exempts who are out sick and not working from home don’t need to be paid their full salaries, if your bona fide sick pay plan pays them for the lost salary. Exceptions: Exempts don’t need to be paid their full salaries if they haven’t qualified under your sick pay plan, they have already used up their benefits for the year or they haven’t actually received any benefits. They may use other accrued time, if they have any. If they’ve run out of accrued time and can’t borrow from the next allotment, they can take an unpaid day off.

On the other hand, exempts who work from home because they’re taking care of a sick child or spouse must be paid their full salaries.

TEMPERATURE RISING? The FLSA is only your starting point. You must also consider whether employees qualify for federal or state family and medical leave. In addition, employers in Arizona, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington have paid sick leave laws. Many more municipalities have sick pay ordinances. Check your municipality’s website to see if you’re covered.