New Decision Strikes Down Department of Labor’s Rule Interpreting the FFCRA
Recently, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that portions of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule interpreting the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) was invalid. This holding expands the FFCRA’s paid leave provisions to more workers who were previously ineligible.
The court focused on several exemptions that employers were able to use to deny FFCRA leave to employees. More specifically:
- The DOL’s Final Rule made employees ineligible for FFCRA leave where their employers did not have work available for them in certain circumstances. The court held that the DOL’s interpretation was based on an impermissible construction of the law.
- Under the statute, employers may elect to exclude “health care providers” from leave benefits. The FFCRA defined a “health care provider” as “(A) a doctor of medicine or osteopathy who is authorized to practice medicine or surgery (as appropriate) by the State in which the doctor practices; or (B) any other person determined by the Secretary to be capable of providing health care services.” The court held that the DOL’s Final Rule impermissibly went beyond this definition, including English professors, librarians, and cafeteria managers at a university with a medical school.
- In the Final Rule, the DOL required that employees, before taking leave, provide their employers with documentation indicating their reason for leave, the duration of the requested leave, and when relevant, the authority for the isolation or quarantine order qualifying them for leave. The court ruled that, because the FFCRA contained only “reasonable” or “practicable” notice requirements, the DOL’s interpretation was inconsistent with the statute.
- Finally, the DOL required employer consent for an employee to use leave on an intermittent basis. The court struck the consent requirement, but refused to permit broad intermittent leave where the employee poses a risk of transmitting the virus.
Federal guidance concerning this issue is complex and changing rapidly. If you have questions about this or any other workforce issue, please contact your relationship attorney or one of Honigman’s Labor and Employment attorneys.