First DOL investigation of FFCRA leave denial

Company to pay back wages after denying paid sick leave to worker whose doctor ordered coronavirus quarantine.

Posted April 30, 2020

It didn’t take long for the DOL to begin enforcing the employee leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), even though full enforcement didn’t begin until April 17. After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), which enforces the leave provisions, the agency determined that a company will pay an employee $1,600 in back wages for refusing to provide him sick leave under the FFCRA after healthcare providers ordered him to self-quarantine due to COVID-19-related issues. The $1,600 amounts to the employee’s full wages of $20 an hour for 80 hours (two weeks) of leave.

WHD investigators found that the employee took the leave after his doctor instructed him to self-quarantine. The FFCRA includes provisions that entitle employees to two weeks of paid sick leave for a variety of reasons, and one of those reasons is if the employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine. The employer, however, failed to pay the employee for the leave taken, even after receiving documentation of the doctor’s self-quarantine instructions.

When the employee did not receive the paid sick leave, he filed a claim with the WHD, and an investigation ensued. In addition to the backpay, the company agreed to future compliance with the FFCRA.

Employers didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for the FFCRA’s provisions, as the law was passed on March 18 and became effective on April 1, 2020. In addition to the two weeks of paid sick leave, the FFCRA entitles eligible employees to up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave for reasons revolving around a child’s school or daycare being unavailable to an employee.

In light of the demand placed on employers, the FFCRA gives tax credits to businesses that provide employees with the required paid leave for the employee’s own health needs, or to care for family members. The law is designed to help employers keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.

The FFCRA regulations are under fire, most lately by the state of New York. If the claim were to succeed, the DOL could be prohibited from enforcing them. Stay tuned!

This article was written by Darlene Clabault of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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