E1. What steps should be taken if an employee becomes ill with fever, cough or other concerning symptoms?

Managers and supervisors should recommend that employees who are sick remain off-duty (i.e., on sick leave) until symptoms resolve, and that they seek medical assistance, as appropriate. Occupational health clinics may be able to provide a fitness-for-duty evaluation in cases where there is uncertainty. In those cases, supervisors should call their local occupational health clinic before sending employees.

Anyone sick and believed to be at risk for COVID-19 infection should be advised to seek medical assistance and follow the CDC recommendations:

  • Stay home except to get medical care.
  • Separate yourself from other people in your home and avoid sharing personal household items.
  • If you have a medical appointment, call the health care provider and tell them that you are concerned about the possibility of COVID-19 infection before going to the doctor’s office.
  • Wear a facemask when you are around other people.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items.
  • Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening.
  • If you are placed under active monitoring, or facilitated self-monitoring, follow the instructions provided by your local health department or occupational health professional, as appropriate.
  • Consult with your health care provider before discontinuing home isolation.

If an employee declines to take leave, managers and supervisors should consult occupational health and the local human resources or academic personnel offices for assistance in determining whether there is objective evidence of illness. If there is objective evidence of illness, and an employee refuses to take leave, a manager or supervisor may, over the objection of the employee, require that the employee leave the workplace. In such circumstances, the absence should be recorded as “approved.”

Managers and supervisors should seek assistance from their human resources or academic personnel offices before taking any action to ensure that all appropriate options have been considered. Action should not be taken based solely on a manager’s or supervisor’s subjective assessment of an employee’s medical condition.

Employees who are sick with a contagious acute respiratory illness should be advised to remain at home for at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (≥ 100° F / 37.8° C) and signs of fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) to minimize the spread of the pathogen. Employees should seek immediate medical care if symptoms become more severe (e.g., high fever, difficulty breathing, etc.).

E2. Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or California Family Rights Act (CFRA) entitle an employee to take leave to avoid contracting COVID-19?

No. The FMLA and CFRA entitle employees to job-protected leave when they have a serious health condition or when they need leave to care for covered family members who have a serious health condition. Leave for the purpose of avoiding exposure to the COVID-19 is not protected under the FMLA or CFRA.

E3. Should UC require an employee who is out sick (not due to COVID-19) to provide a health care provider’s note?

No. Supervisors should actively encourage sick employees to stay home, but should not require employees who are sick to validate their illness. Health care provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.

E4. May UC prohibit an employee from coming to work if the employee is known to have contracted COVID-19 themselves, or to have had close contact with someone who has?

Yes. UC is obligated to provide a safe workplace and may take necessary and reasonable steps to minimize health risks for its employees, such as requiring that employees not come to work if they have COVID-19.

If an employee has had very close contact with a person who has COVID-19 (such as living in the same household), the employee should be told to watch carefully for symptoms including fever, cough or shortness of breath. Employees should stay home if COVID-19 symptoms develop and should go home immediately if COVID-19 symptoms occur at work.

If any employment actions are taken as a result of COVID-19, such as requiring that employees not come to work, such actions must be consistent with federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination in the workplace.

Refer to the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Exposure in Travel-Associated or Community Settings and follow the orders of your local public health authority.

E5. Do the same leave policies apply to represented and non-represented employees?

No. Leaves for represented employees are generally governed by the applicable collective bargaining agreements, whereas leaves for policy-covered employees are governed by applicable Personnel Policies for Staff Members (PPSM) or by the Academic Personnel Manual (APM). Managers and supervisors should, therefore, consult and comply with the collective bargaining agreement provisions regarding leaves and/or UC policies that may apply to their employees.

E6. What signs and symptoms may indicate that an employee has become ill with COVID-19?

The CDC reports that COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

At present, the CDC also includes epidemiologic risk factors — such as a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset or close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset — as criteria for health care professionals to identify individuals as patients under investigation (PUI). Refer to the most current CDC guidance as the PUI criteria will likely change as further information becomes available. 

E7. What additional steps should be taken if an employee is suspected to be ill with COVID-19 at work?

In addition to understanding the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 (refer to previous answer), a UC location’s response to employees who appear to have an acute respiratory illness, including COVID-19, may depend on the resources available at that particular UC location.

At locations at which occupational health services or authorized medical offices are available, managers and supervisors should recommend that employees who appear to be ill seek medical assistance. If occupational health services are not available, managers and supervisors should encourage employees to take leave and seek medical assistance from their primary care physician.

If an employee declines to take leave, managers and supervisors should consult their local human resources or academic personnel offices for assistance in determining whether there is objective evidence of a suspected case of COVID-19. (For example, if the employee had signs of respiratory illness, such as coughing, or fever and a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset.)

Managers and supervisors should ask on-site employee health services, if available, to assist in making this determination. If there is objective evidence that an employee has an acute respiratory illness and that employee refuses to take leave, a manager or supervisor may, over the objection of the employee, require that the employee leave the workplace. In such circumstances, the absence should be recorded as “approved.”

Managers and supervisors should seek assistance from their local human resources or academic personnel offices before taking any action to ensure that all appropriate options have been considered. Action should not be taken based solely on a manager’s or supervisor’s subjective assessment of an employee’s medical condition.

E8. May UC require an employee who was possibly exposed to COVID-19 and directed to remain quarantined or practice social distancing, or an employee who contracted COVID-19, to provide a certification from a health care provider before returning to work?

Yes. An employer may require a certification from a health care provider clearing an employee to return to work if they have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19. However, managers and supervisors should be consistent in this practice and treat employees uniformly.

E9. Must UC grant leave to an employee who is sick with COVID-19?

Employees who are ill with COVID-19 should be advised to remain at home until cleared by their local public health department to minimize the spread of the virus.

If an employee was traveling on university business when they were instructed to self-isolate, or if they contracted the virus from a patient they were treating, time off would generally be covered as administrative leave or workers’ compensation. This is because the illness arose out of, and in the course of, their employment.

Employees who contract the virus on vacation, or who are directed to self-isolate following a vacation or other personal travel, should be encouraged to avail themselves of options available under UC’s sick leave policy and other applicable leave policies and collective bargaining agreement provisions.

An employee who is sick may be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) under certain circumstances. The FMLA and CFRA entitle eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a calendar year if they have a serious health condition. Some instances of COVID-19 may qualify as a “serious health condition.”

University employees may be permitted and/or required to use paid leave accruals in certain circumstances, depending on the applicable policy or collective bargaining agreement. Employees should be encouraged to avail themselves of options available under the applicable policy or collective bargaining agreement provisions.

E10. Must UC allow employees who are parents or caregivers time off from work to care for sick family members?

Employees who are healthy but whose family members are home sick with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC Guidance for Implementing Home Care of People Not Requiring Hospitalization for COVID-19 for guidance on conducting a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

If certain members of an employee’s family are sick, the employee may be entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA). The FMLA and CFRA entitle eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a calendar year to care for certain family members with a serious health condition. At UC, this group includes the employee’s spouse or domestic partner, parents and children. COVID-19 may qualify as a “serious health condition.” UC employees may be permitted and/or required to substitute paid leave in certain circumstances, depending on the applicable policy or collective bargaining agreement.

Even if it is not covered by the FMLA and/or CFRA, an employee may nevertheless be entitled to take leave to care for a family member who is ill under applicable policy and collective bargaining agreement provisions.

Additionally, under UC sick leave policies and certain collective bargaining agreements, employees with accrued sick leave may use it to care for ill family members. If an employee has no accrued time off, the employee may be granted unpaid time off to care for an ill family member. Applicable policies and collective bargaining agreement provisions should be consulted. Employees should be encouraged to avail themselves of options available under the applicable policy or collective bargaining agreement provisions.

E11. Does the foregoing advice, with regard to leave, also apply to academic employees?

The basic principles set forth above regarding steps that UC may take to ensure a safe workplace apply to UC’s academic employees. Academic leaders, managers and supervisors should refer to the Academic Personnel Manual to determine applicable leave policies for the various categories of academic employees.