Meeting Date:

November 16, 2009







Darby Fuerst,




General Manager

Line Item No:





Prepared By:

Cynthia Schmidlin

Cost Estimate:                 



General Counsel Approval:  N/A

Committee Recommendation:  The Administrative Committee reviewed this item on November 10, 2009 and recommended approval.

CEQA Compliance:  N/A


SUMMARY:  In response to the H1N1 pandemic, District staff has prepared an “H1N1 Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Policy” (Exhibit 4-A). The policy is a product of an extensive review of materials provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services.  The policy will be added to the District’s Employee Handbook and Illness and Injury Preparation Program.  It includes information regarding influenza, pandemics, and H1N1. It puts a policy in place that could apply not only to the current H1N1 pandemic, but also to widespread outbreaks of other influenza strains that might occur in the future.  It also lists 12 policy statements that describe the District’s response to an influenza pandemic.  General Manager, Darby Fuerst, and District labor representatives Rick Dickhaut and Cynthia Schmidlin met with Union representatives on October 30, 2009 to address the potential effect of this policy on the wages, hours, and working conditions of represented employees.  District representatives received the Union representatives' support after making some adjustments to the draft policy in response to their concerns.


The proposed policy includes three provisions concerning sick leave that require Board approval, as they do not conform with the language in the Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the District bargaining units. These provisions would only apply in cases of a declared influenza pandemic.  They are as follows:


1)      “Sick Leave will be advanced for up to 10 days for those employees who do not have adequate balances to cover their illness or that of their children.” 


Since the District may be ordering employees to go home, this would protect those employees who do not have adequate sick leave balances from hardship. Over 70% of District staff members have adequate sick leave balances to cover possible absences due to an influenza pandemic. The District has a very low rate of turnover.  Therefore, the chance of an employee resigning from the District before earning advanced leave is minimal. 

2)      “Due to crowding of medical facilities, doctor certificates stating the justification for absence will not be required during a pandemic unless an illness exceeds 10 days of leave.” 


The provisions of the MOUs require a doctor’s certification of illness after more than 3 days absence.  It may be difficult for those who are not gravely ill to be seen by a doctor during a pandemic.  Also, visits to doctors’ offices, clinics, and emergency rooms would further expose caregivers.  Therefore, an extension of the absence required for medical certification of illness from influenza would be practical.  Any illness other than influenza or absences of 10 days or more would still require certification.


3) “Employees who have uninfected children at home due to school or daycare closures will be granted sick leave, vacation leave, or leave-without-pay to care for them.” 


The purpose of this provision is to assure that employees do not fear they will not be granted leave if they must remain at home to care for their children because of school closures.  The Union representatives requested that sick leave be added to the balances that could be used for this purpose, as the reason for their absence was related to illness in the community.  


RECOMMENDATION: That the Board approve the above-listed sick leave provisions contained in the proposed Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Policy Including H1N1. 


IMPACTS TO STAFF/RESOURCES: It is unlikely that there will be any cost impact involved in approval of these provisions. 


BACKGROUND: On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization declared a worldwide H1N1 Pandemic.  President Barack Obama declared the H1N1 outbreak a national emergency on Friday October 23, 2009.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with input from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has developed updated guidance for employers of all sizes to use as they develop or review and update plans to respond to 2009 H1N1 influenza, including preparedness and response recommendations. It is the opinion of the CDC that employers have a responsibility to take a pro-active stance in determining how best to decrease the spread of influenza and lower the impact of influenza in the workplace.  This position was echoed in the October 2009 meeting of the Monterey Peninsula Special District Managers group, which hosted a presentation on Pandemic Flu readiness preparation by Sidney Reade from Monterey County’s Office of Emergency Services, accompanied by a representative of the Monterey County Health Department. 



4-A      H1N1 Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Policy