Payroll Briefs

DOL Now Enforcing COVID-19 Paid-Leave Rules

June 26, 2020

When COVID-19 first put the country into a state of emergency, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provided employers with time to comply with pandemic-related paid sick leave and paid family leave mandates. During this time, businesses could correct mistakes without facing scrutiny. However, the DOL recently increased its enforcement efforts. DM Payroll Solutions gives you an inside look at these new enforcement efforts and the criteria businesses should pay attention to in order to stay compliant.

Background: FFCRA’s Effect on Paid Leave

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employers with fewer than 500 employees were required to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave benefits if employees needed to comply with a self-quarantine order or care for someone infected by the pandemic. Additionally, the act provides emergency paid family leave for parents who cannot work due to their children’s school or childcare service being shut down due to the pandemic. These paid leave provisions took effect Apr. 1, 2020 and expire on Dec. 31, 2020.  However, small employers, those with 50 or fewer employees, may take advantage of some exception rules when applicable.

Nonenforcement Period Officially Ends

In April, the DOL announced the nonenforcement period of the paid leave rules had officially ended. Following this guidance, the DOL issued its first enforcement order to an electrical company in Tucson, Ariz. The employer was ordered to pay an employee who was denied paid sick leave, despite showing COVID-19 symptoms and a doctor-ordered quarantine recommendation. As a result, the employer was required to pay the employee $1,600 which covered his full wages for 80 hours of leave.

Paid Sick Leave Criteria

Under the FFCRA, employees must be provided up to 80 hours of paid sick leave benefits if they:

  1. Have been ordered to self-quarantine due to COVID-19.
  2. Have been advised by a healthcare professional to self-quarantine due to COVID-19.
  3. Have COVID-19 symptoms and are awaiting a medical diagnosis.
  4. Are caring for someone who has been ordered to self-quarantine, whether by the government or a healthcare professional.
  5. Need to care for a child whose school or childcare service has been shut down due to COVID-19. This leave can also be combined with emergency paid family leave.
  6. Are experiencing similar conditions as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

An employee’s paid sick leave must be paid at minimum wage or their regular pay rate, whichever is greater, for leave taken for reasons taken for 1, 2 or 3 above. Employees who are taking leave for reasons 4, 5 or 6 must be compensated at two-thirds of their regular pay rate or minimum wage, whichever is greater. Employees working part-time may take the number of hours they would normally work during a two-week period. Under FFCRA, paid sick leave is limited to $511 per day ($5,110 total) for an employee’s own care and $200 per day ($2,000 total) if the employee is caring for someone else.

Paid Family Leave Criteria

A portion of the FFCRA, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), provides paid leave to parents who are unable to work due to their children’s schools or childcare programs closing during the health crisis. This act allows employees to take paid sick leave for the first 10 days of leave or the option to substitute any accrued vacation or PTO time under their employer’s policy. For the ten weeks following, employees must be paid no less than two-thirds of their regular pay rate for normally scheduled hours. Employees cannot receive more than $200 per day (or $12,000 for 12 weeks) that include paid sick leave and EFMLEA leave. The DOL stated that as of Apr. 1, 2020, workers who have been on the payroll for at least 30 calendar days can take advantage of paid family leave benefits.

Ongoing Guidance

With confusion from both employers and employees on how to apply the act or access its benefits, the DOL has made an effort to regularly release compliance information and update its Q&A document. In addition to creating temporary regulations, the DOL also created a fact sheet for employees and a fact sheet for employers. The DOL continues to add resources to its website, so employers who are concerned about staying compliant with paid sick leave and paid family leave benefits should check for updates regularly.

It is recommended that you seek legal counsel if you are unsure how these labor laws impact your business. Know that DM Payroll Solutions is here to help you provide accurate payroll to your employees during these unprecedented times. Contact us today.