The USDOL on April 29, 2020 announced that a Southern California Tire Company will be required to pay an employee $2,606 in back wages for failing to provide sick leave to an employee under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The employee presented documentation to his employer from a health care provider advising that he self-quarantine while waiting for a family member’s test results for coronavirus. The employer mistakenly believed that the individual was required to produce evidence of a positive test to qualify for the leave.
The employer will reimburse the employee for eighty (80) hours of leave covering the period of time he was required to remain home from work awaiting test results. The company also agreed to future compliance, a typical component of any post-investigation settlement. No liquidated damages or penalties were assessed.
The USDOL described this as a “strong signal” of its desire to protect employee rights while educating employers during the coronavirus pandemic. This should be a reminder to employers that these laws are new and complex, with updated guidance being issued regularly. Given that the law has only been in effect since April 1, it is important for businesses to work with employment counsel to ensure compliance. The USDOL also took the opportunity in announcing this settlement to remind businesses of the purpose and intent of FFCRA:
The FFCRA helps the U.S. combat and defeat the workplace effects of the coronavirus by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees tax credits to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The law enables employers to 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.
Helpful guidance on FFCRA compliance is available on the USDOL Wage and Hour Division website at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.