DOL Releases New Guidance on the Workplace and Coronavirus

On July 20, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued some new guidance on the workplace with regard to the coronavirus.  Specifically, these new guidelines address Questions and Answers (Q&A’s) about the protections and requirements in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) as workplaces reopen during the pandemic.   The guidance from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) includes commonly asked questions and answers that address critical issues in all three laws.
For questions specific to the application of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and paid leave visit Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers

FLSA 

If your business has a shortage of workers and is looking to “volunteers” to help out, be aware that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has stringent requirements with respect to the use of volunteers.  In general, coverednonexempt workers working for private, for-profit employers have to be paid at least the minimum wage and cannot volunteer their services.  Check with DOL for the rules governing the circumstances where volunteering in the public and private, non-profit sectors may be allowed.


If you have been laid off and have not received your last paycheck, immediate payment may be required by state law (although it is not required by federal law).  If your regular payday has passed without payment, contact the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division or your state labor office.


The DOL’s new guidance on COVID-19 and the FLSA addresses topics such as
teleworking and compensable time, maintaining employees’ exempt and
non-exempt status, and hazard pay.


You can find a full list of the DOL’s Q&A regarding the FLSA here.

FMLA


If you or your employees are out with COVID-19 or are caring for ill family members, check with the Department of Labor (DOL) for information on whether such leave is covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Under the FMLA, covered employers must provide employees job-protected, unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons, which may include the flu where complications arise.  Employees on FMLA leave are entitled to the continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms as existed before they took FMLA leave.


In addition to substituting “COVID-19” for “influenza” in many places, the
new guidance on COVID-19 and the FMLA adds questions on whether a
telemedicine appointment can establish a serious medical condition under
the statute (yes, if the appointment meets certain requirements), and
whether the FMLA prohibits employers from requiring a COVID-19 test of
employees returning from FMLA leave (no, where the testing requirement is unrelated to FMLA leave and applies to all employees). Employers should be aware that while the DOL’s Q&As on the FMLA continues
to assert that there is no paid employee leave requirement under federal law, the FFCRA does require paid leave for specified COVID-19-related reasons.


You can find a full list of the DOL’s Q&A regarding FMLA here

FFCRA

Issues addressed by the DOL’s additional Q&As on the FFCRA include
requiring employees returning from FFCRA leave to be tested for COVID-19 and the availability of FFCRA leave after a furlough.


Temporary Rule: Paid Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act 
On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced new action regarding how American workers and employers will benefit from the protections and relief offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) posted a temporary rule issuing regulations pursuant to this new law, effective April 1, 2020.  For more information, see https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/ffcra (en español: Licencia Laboral Pagada bajo Ley Familias Primero de Respuesta al Coronavirus).

FFCRA will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by reimbursing American private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The legislation will ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus, while at the same time reimbursing businesses.

You can find a full list of the DOL’s Q&A regarding FFCRA here

For more information about the laws enforced by the WHD, call 866-4US-WAGE, or visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd
.