The Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the United State’s economy. Small to mid-sized businesses have witnessed a massive dip in sales and revenue due to a two-month countrywide lockdown.
Now, as the economy is reopening in phases, the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to affect working individuals, businesses, and communities. Veteran employment lawyers in MA are of the view that ensuring legal protection for COVID-related medical leaves will help instill confidence among the employees.
According to industry reports, the need for sick leave or family medical leave has increased dramatically during the pandemic. Those who have contracted the disease or are caregivers to family members comprise of the majority applicants.
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as amended by the Coronavirus Aid Relief Economic Security (CARES) Act, certain employees who need to take time off due to COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for extended protection, and their employers cannot terminate or otherwise retaliate against an employee having applied for sick-leave.
The two key provisions of the FFCRA are the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). These provisions and the FFCRA became effective from April 2, 2020, and will last through December 31, 2020.
If you’re among those individuals who have taken leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic either under EPSAL or the EFMLEA, you need to know your rights. This way, you’ll have a proper understanding whether employers are violating them.
So, let’s discuss in detail the 5 legal protections for COVID-related medical leave!
If a qualified employer fails to provide paid sick leave as mentioned in the EPSLA, then it will be considered equivalent of the employer failing to pay the minimum wage, which is a violation of section 206 of the fair Labor Standards Act and the employee will have the right to file a civil lawsuit.
Additionally, the employers will be subjected to enforcement proceedings mentioned in sections 216 and 217 of the FLSA. A violation of these acts can lead to the following penalties –
2. Employers Can’t Retaliate Against Eligible Employees Who Have Taken or Requested Paid Sick Leave Under the EPSLA.
If an employee has requested or has taken emergency paid sick leave under the EPSLA, the employer can by no means retaliate against the person. The EPSLA specifically prohibits qualified employers from taking disciplinary or discriminatory actions against any employee because –
Employers engaging in any unlawful retaliation shall be considered violators of section 215 (a) (3) of the Fair Labor and Standards Act. Penalties for employers violating EPSLA in this manner can include –
Employers found violating this act may also be required to provide equitable relief to the employee, which can include employment, reinstatement to the prior position, or a promotion.
3. It is Unlawful for Qualified Employers to Interfere With An Employee’s Exercise of Their Rights
Under the EFMLEA, qualified employers are subject to similar requirements outlined in section 2615 of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In other words, if an employee exercises or attempts to exercise their rights under the EFMLEA, then qualified employers are prohibited from engaging in any of the following.
Employers violating these prohibitions are subject to the enforcement provisions outlined in section 107 of the FMLA. The penalties may include the following –
4. Qualified Employers Cannot Dictate or Influence the Type of Leave Eligible Employees Choose
Under the FFCRA, qualified employers cannot deny emergency paid sick leaves or expanded family and medical leave, citing that the employee has already taken another type of leave.
In other words, when an employee requests paid leave under either the EPSLA or EFMLEA, the employer must permit the employee to take such a leave immediately, no matter how many leaves the employee took prior to the pandemic.
5. Paid Sick Leave Taken Under the EPSLA Does Not Negatively Impact An Employee’s Other Rights & Employment Benefits
When an eligible employee under the EPSLA uses paid sick leaves, the employers can by no means diminish, reduce, or eliminate that employee’s other rights or benefits to which they are entitled under the law. Additionally, the employer cannot deduct leaves available to the employees from other sources if she/he is eligible for EPSLA.
So, here was our complete guide on legal protection for COVID-related medical leaves. Consult an experienced employment lawyer in MA today if you think your employer denies you the rights, as stated in EPSLA.
Also, let us know in the comment section whether these measures are adequate, or if the Federal Government needs to come up with something more concrete.