Akerman Senterfitt, Health Care / Medicine, Perks / Fringe Benefits, Swine Flu, Travel / Vacation

Another Way to Handle Swine Flu

Akerman logo.JPGWe previously reported on Ropes & Gray hoarding Tamiflu for its employees. Reaction was mixed. Some people applauded Ropes looking out for the health of their employees and their families; others feared that Ropes was unwittingly contributing to a drug-resistant strain of the H1N1 virus.
But there are many ways to prevent an outbreak of piggy pestilence at a law firm near you. One of the most, dare I say rational, measures is to make sure that people who are sick aren’t coming into work.
That’s what they are doing at Akerman Senterfitt. The Washington Post reports (gavel bang: ABA Journal) that the firm is allowing people with the sickness to take time off of work, without counting it against their allotted leave time:

When Great Falls resident Carolyn Cuppernull’s 10-year-old daughter came down with swine flu, she didn’t have to take time off work to stay home with her.
Cuppernull is senior marketing manager of the Washington office of the law firm Akerman Senterfitt. Under the group’s former policy, she would have had to use paid leave to stay home if she or a relative got sick. But the firm recently updated its rules to allow employees to stay home with full pay — without using leave time — for H1N1-related absences.

Now that’s a way to make sure your office doesn’t suffer a swine flu outbreak without potentially contributing to the mutation of a global super virus.
Of course, there is a downside.

When the Boston Globe reported on the Tamiflu situation at Ropes & Gray, one of the doctors interviewed had this to say:

Dr. Karen Victor, an internist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said “the main issue here is really access.” The firm “is deciding that Ropes & Gray’s employees’ appearance at work is so important that they will put that above fairness to society,” she said.

But will sending people home really impact the ability of lawyers to bill hours? The Akerman Senterfitt woman interviewed for the Post story doesn’t think so:

“I have a laptop and a BlackBerry,” Cuppernull said. “I was able to attend a meeting telephonically and participate in online training with hardly a blip.”

In these days of telecommuting, is it really necessary for anyone to show up at the office when they are not feeling well and potentially carrying the H1N1 virus? Swine flu isn’t powerful enough yet to spread via BlackBerry.
During this flu season, hopefully more law firms will adopt a “stay your sick ass home” policy.
H1N1 exposes weak leave policies [Washington Post]
Akerman Senterfitt Won’t Charge Leave Time for Swine Flu Absences [ABA Journal]
Earlier: Ropes & Gray: Stockpiling Swine Flu Drugs

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