Families First Coronavirus Response Act Update

Earlier this month the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down several provisions of the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) April 1, 2020 Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). In essence, the New York court disagreed with part of the DOL’s interpretation of the law, rejecting four features of that regulation.

  1. The work-availability requirement. The DOL’s April 1 Final Rule expressed that furloughed employees were not subject to the leave provisions. The court rejected the DOL’s interpretation, implying that employees who were laid off during the COVID-19 crisis are eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA.   
  2. The intermittent leave provision. The New York Court upheld much of the DOL’s interpretation regarding the restrictions on intermittent leave when such leave could increase the risk of viral transmission. They rejected the notion that employees must obtain their employers’ permission to take leave intermittently for all qualifying conditions.   
  3. The documentation requirements. The DOL’s April 1 Final Rule allowed employers to require employees taking FFCRA leave to provide documentation indicating the following:
    • The reason for leave.
    • The duration of the requested leave.
    • When relevant, the authority for the isolation or quarantine order qualifying them for leave.
      • The New York Court upheld that the law required documentation, but asserted that the DOL’s Final Rule imposed more stringent standards than the statute.
  4. The definition of a health care provider. The New York Court ruling asserted that the DOL’s definition of a health care provider was too broad.

A ruling from a district court that counters a DOL Rule can create confusion for employers. Some attorneys have already weighed in and offered the opinion that the New York Court ruling will likely be challenged, or the implications of the New York decision will be limited in scope. Others however, such as the Society of Human Resources Management, have recommended employers follow the court’s ruling pending appeal. It is always best to consult with an attorney for guidance in this ever changing landscape of COVID-19.  

About the Author

+Shawn Miller is a principal at Morrison, providing business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, and strategic planning), special projects, and has greatest expertise in recruiting and People Services that don't fit into any conventional category. You can contact Shawn directly at smiller@morrisonco.net or via telephone at (530) 809-4680.

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