Company Pays Back Wages to Employee Denied FFCRA Leave

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced last week that it had reached a settlement between Arizona company Bear Creek Electrical and one of its employees who complained that he was improperly denied leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The employee was not paid for time away from work when his health care provider ordered him to self-quarantine due to potential COVID symptoms. The company will pay the employee $1,600, which is 80 hours of leave at the employee’s rate of pay of $20.00 per hour.

Employers who violate the emergency paid sick leave portion of the FFCRA are subject to the penalty provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including unpaid wages, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs. Employers who violate the FMLA-expansion leave portion of the FFCRA are subject to the penalty provisions of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including back pay, front pay, liquidated and other special damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.

The DOL gave employers newly subject to the FFCRA a grace period against enforcement actions by the agency until April 17. Now, that grace period is over. Employees have two avenues to pursue regarding alleged FFCRA violations. They can, as this employee did, bring their complaints to the DOL who will investigate and respond. However, employees can forgo DOL enforcement and bring their claims directly to the court, with one exception: private employers and non-profit organizations with fewer than 50 employees, who would not normally be covered by the FMLA, are not subject to private civil actions for violations of the FMLA-expansion portion of the FFCRA but remain subject to DOL enforcement.

Contact us with your questions about whether your employees qualify for FFCRA leave.