On March 18, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which took effect April 1, 2020. The FFCRA will remain in effect through December 31, 2020. Among other things, the FFCRA seeks to assist both employees and employers affected by the Coronavirus. In addition to other provisions, the FFCRA contains two (2) acts that require qualifying employers to provide certain employees with temporary paid time off for reasons related to the Coronavirus. These are the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (the “Emergency FMLA Expansion Act”) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (the “EPSLA”). Since the enactment of the FFCRA, the Department of Labor (the “DOL”) has taken many steps to ensure that employers are providing their employees with the contemplated paid time off, as well as following all required health and safety measures in the workplace.
DOL action after the enactment of the FFCRA
As reflected in the FFCRA, the DOL has the right to enforce the specific provisions of the FFCRA. As such, employees are encouraged to contact the DOL if they believe their employer is not acting within the confines of the FFCRA. According to the DOL’s website, employees have done just that. Since the DOL started enforcing the FFCRA, the DOL has instructed numerous employers to pay employees back wages after wrongly denying requests for Coronavirus-related paid sick leave.
Upon receipt of a complaint for violations of the FFCRA, the DOL typically conducts an investigation. On July 29, 2020, the DOL reported that it instructed a California manufacturing company to pay seventeen (17) employees $41,214.00 in back wages after the employer terminated the workers who were eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA when they attempted to use that leave. This is just one example where employees have received back wages for FFCRA violations.
DOL action regarding workplace health and safety
In addition to awarding back wages, the DOL has also cited and penalized companies for violating required workplace health and safety measures related to the Coronavirus. Employers are responsible for providing a workplace free of serious recognized hazards, which includes the Coronavirus. Recently, the DOL cited and penalized an Ohio healthcare company for violating respiratory protection standards, despite the employer’s other efforts to protect employees from the Coronavirus. The DOL investigated the company’s protection program and protective measures after the company reported that seven (7) of its employees were hospitalized for Coronavirus-related illnesses. The company had fifteen (15) days to comply with the health and safety requirements, request a conference, or contest the DOL’s findings.
If you feel your rights under the FFCRA have been violated, you believe your employer is violating required health and safety measures, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 319-9724. We are here to serve you.