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DOL reaffirms its FFCRA leave regulations following New York court ruling

Following a New York federal court’s ruling that struck portions of the DOL’s recent regulations governing FFCRA leave, the DOL has issued further rulemaking with expanded explanations. The new rulemaking largely reaffirms the prior regulations, including the specific rules struck by the New York court, but modifies the DOL’s prior rules regarding the FFCRA’s exclusion for employees of a health care provider by limiting the exclusion to those employees who are physicians or other health care providers, or “other employees who are employed to provide diagnostic services, preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and necessary to the provision of patient care,” apparently agreeing with the court in the New York case that janitors or cafeteria workers are not excludable, in other words, are entitled to FFCRA leave. The DOL’s new rulemaking will appear in the Federal Register 9/16/2020. The DOL summarizes its new rulemaking, as follows (quoting the DOL):

  1. The Department reaffirms that paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave
    may be taken only if the employee has work from which to take leave and explains
    further why this requirement is appropriate. This temporary rule clarifies that this
    requirement applies to all qualifying reasons to take paid sick leave and expanded
    family and medical leave.
  2. The Department reaffirms that, where intermittent FFCRA leave is permitted by the
    Department’s regulations, an employee must obtain his or her employer’s approval to
    take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave intermittently under
    § 825.50 and explains further the basis for this requirement.
  3. The Department revises the definition of “health care provider” under § 825.30(c)(1)
    to mean employees who are health care providers under 29 CFR 825.102 and
    825.125, and other employees who are employed to provide diagnostic services,
    preventive services, treatment services, or other services that are integrated with and
    necessary to the provision of patient care.
  4. The Department revises § 826.100 to clarify that the information the employee must
    give the employer to support the need for his or her leave should be provided to the
    employer as soon as practicable.
  5. The Department revises § 826.90 to correct an inconsistency regarding when an
    employee may be required to give notice of expanded family and medical leave to his
    or her employer.

With regard to parents of students on hybrid schedules (studying partly in school and partly remotely), the DOL clarified that such parents do not need to obtain permission from the company to take leave on the days the students are working remotely. The DOL explained that such leave is not intermittent leave technically (which would require permission it says, see #2 above) but is simply a day of regular leave.

BREAKING NEWS: Colorado Department of Labor and Employment issues paid-sick leave rule regarding coronavirus testing

According to a verbally issued executive order by Colorado Governor Polis, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has issued a rule (the “Colorado HELP” rule, aka the Colorado Health Emergency Leave with Pay rule) requiring certain employers to provide up to 4 days of paid leave for employees awaiting a coronavirus test result. Rule 3 reads, as follows:

Rule 3. Paid Sick Leave for Certain Employees.
3.1 Any employer engaged in the field of leisure and hospitality, food services, child care, education at all levels (including related services, including but not limited to cafeterias and transportation to, from, and on campuses), home health care (working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals), operating a nursing home, or operating a community living facility shall provide up to four days of paid sick leave for an employee (A) with flu-like symptoms and (B) who is being tested for COVID-19. The paid sick leave ends if an employee receives a negative COVID-19 test result.

3.2 These rules do not require an employer to offer additional days of paid sick leave if it already offers all employees an amount of paid leave sufficient to comply with Rules 3.1. However, an employee who already exhausted his or her paid leave allotted by the employer, but then has flulike symptoms and is being tested for COVID-19, is entitled to the additional paid sick days provided by Rule 3.1.
3.3 During paid sick leave covered by these rules, pay shall be provided (A) at the employee’s regular rate of pay (the COMPS Order Rule 1.8 definition of “regular rate of pay” is incorporated into this rule), including all forms of wages and compensation (but increased to the applicable minimum wage for an employee paid below the minimum wage due to a tip credit), and (B) for the employer’s regularly worked hours. To the extent that the employee’s rate of pay or hours worked had varied before the absence for illness, pay shall be in the amount of the employee’s average daily pay for the preceding month.
3.4 To the extent feasible, employees and employers should comply with the procedures of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to pursue and provide paid sick leave under these rules, except that (A) no employer may terminate an employee for inability to provide documentation during an illness covered by these rules, and (B) FMLA provisions do not narrow the rights and responsibilities provided by these rules.

Governor Polis has stated an intent to continue to explore ways the state can respond, including expanding availability of unemployment benefits and possibly freeing up state-government money to assist with other wage losses.

The CDLE’s page on its Colorado HELP rule, including the CDLE’s FAQ list, is available here, which includes the following Q&As:

What does the rule do?

  • Temporarily requires employers in certain industries (listed below) to provide a small amount of paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms who are being tested for coronavirus COVID-19.

How much paid sick leave must be provided?

  • The employer must provide up to four days of paid sick leave to employees with flu-like symptoms who are being tested for coronavirus COVID-19. If the employee receives a negative test result, the paid leave ends.

Is this a requirement on top of sick leave an employer already provides?

  • No. If an employer already provides the paid leave necessary to meet these rules’ requirements, then the employer does not need to provide additional leave. However, if an employer does not already provide enough paid sick leave to comply with these rules, it will have to provide additional paid sick leave to meet the rules’ requirements. And if an employee already exhausted any paid leave allotted by the employer, but then has flu-like symptoms and is being tested for COVID-19, he or she is entitled to the additional paid sick days these rules provide.

Which employees and employers are covered by these sick leave rules?

  • Employers and employees in one of the following industries or jobs:
    • Leisure and Hospitality
    • Food Services
    • Child care
    • Education, including transportation, food service, and related work at educational establishments
    • Home health, if working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals
    • Nursing homes
    • Community living facilities
  • Workers are covered regardless of pay rate or method (hourly, weekly, piece rate, etc.); the daily pay during leave is either their established daily rate or, if their pay fluctuates, their average daily pay for the past month.

How long will the rule stay in effect?

  • The rules take effect March 11, 2020, for 30 days, or longer if the state of emergency declared by the Governor continues.

Why are these rules being created?

  • With the continuing spread of coronavirus COVID-19, coming to work while ill poses a serious threat to the health and safety of co-workers, others at the business, and the public generally. These rules will temporarily entitle certain employees to paid sick days in order to limit the spread of this disease.

Will additional funds be available for workers who need to be out of work longer than four days?

  • The current emergency rules only speak to paid leave for the four-day period required for testing, because that is what CDLE could do immediately. The Governor has asked CDLE to identify other potential supports and wage replacement, such as access to unemployment insurance. These options are under review to determine rulemaking authority, eligibility, etc.

 

Tenth Circuit reaffirms indefinite leave request is not a reasonable accommodation

The Tenth Circuit recently reaffirmed that a request for indefinite leave is not a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Although the plaintiff provided some information about her need for leave, she failed to provide any sense of the anticipated duration of her disability. Instead she “informed her supervisor at Kelly on a Monday morning that she planned ‘not to come to work this week at all’ and indicated she would need additional time off for ‘some appointments and tests’ and for ‘five times of radiation.’” The Tenth Circuit held that was insufficient.

The accommodation Plaintiff requested would have required GE either to go without someone working at the receptionist position it had contracted with Kelly to staff (requiring others at GE to take over Plaintiff’s duties at the receptionist desk while still carrying out their own job duties), or to accept a supertemporary employee or employees who would fill in for Plaintiff for the week she wanted off and for whichever other additional times she needed to take off for tests, appointments, “times of radiation,” and other cancer-related reasons, while letting Plaintiff return to take over her temporary job position whenever she was free and felt up to attending work.

The case is a good reminder to employers of the value (and legal requirement under the ADA) of the interactive process. By communicating with the plaintiff and hearing her full request, the employer was able to gauge the legal reasonableness of her request under the ADA and determine it to be insufficient.

Source: Punt v. Kelly Services