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30 January 2020

Cold, Flu, Coronavirus: Likely Covered Under State Paid Sick Laws, Including Michigan’s PMLA


Cold and flu season is upon us. For the week ending January 18, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reports that 2.2% of all outpatient visits were due to care related to influenza-like symptoms. Additionally, on January 27, the Department of State issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory for all of China, recommending that individuals “reconsider travel” to the area due to an outbreak of a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province. The new coronoavirus, named 2019-nCoV, is a respiratory illness and is related to, but not the same as MERS and SARS (both coronaviruses). Some infected persons have shown no symptoms, while others have become severely ill.

Most state (and, municipal) paid-sick laws, as well as Executive Order 13706 (applicable to federal contractors), allow eligible employees to use paid leave to recover from health conditions such as a cold, the flu, or even coronavirus. Its important for covered employer to be aware of the laws applicable to their locations and employees for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The reasons related to eligible leave may include conditions that may not have been covered under an employer’s “traditional” vacation and paid time off plans.
  • These laws may cover employees who were not previously eligible for vacation/PTO benefits; and
  • These laws may cover time off to care for family members who may not have been covered under eligible vacation/PTO benefits.

Typically, an eligible employee’s use of time off in compliance with paid sick laws cannot subject an employee to discipline or discharge for attendance violations.

In Michigan, for example, the Paid Medical Leave Act (PMLA) allows eligible employees to take foreseeable and unforeseeable time off for: The employee’s own (or, his/her eligible family member’s) mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of the employee’s (or eligible family member’s) mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; or preventative medical care for the employee (or eligible family member). Eligible employees include employees who work, on average, more than 25 hours/week in a calendar year, and eligible family members include siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren (in addition to spouses, children, and parents).

In some instances, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) might apply to flu and coronavirus sufferers. Its important for employers to be aware of their obligations to ensure they stay on the right side of the law. Contact your Miller Johnson labor and employment attorney if you have any questions about those obligations.


To keep abreast of all our Coronavirus / COVID-19 information, please visit https://millerjohnson.com/coronavirus-covid-19/.