The U.S. Department of Labor Provides Guidance Amid COVID-19 April 27, 2020
“When it comes to workplace safety, we want to provide guidance and clarity and help employers do the right thing. Most are working hard to do so. But we also know that unfortunately, enforcement may be needed in some cases. We have the tools we need and will use them if necessary.” – Eugene Scalia, U.S. Secretary of Labor
While the United States has experienced extensive and exceptional governmental intervention during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is continuing its efforts to support state and local governments, provide assistance to employees, oversee unemployment benefits, and ensure that paid leave is available and accessible. Furthermore, the DOL is actively engaging, to not only maintain the safety of America’s workplaces, but to defend workers’ rights regarding paid leave benefits.
As a response, on April 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the end of the temporary period of non-enforcement of paid leave protections under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Inevitably, the non-enforcement period allowed the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to further educate and provide guidance to employers, aid employees, and allow employers to comply with the requirements of the law.
As the nation continues to address the dilemma of COVID-19, often characterized by perplexity and abstruseness, the DOL continues to provide guidelines for the orchestration of events that benefit both employees and employers. As millions of Americans become eligible for new and expanded paid leave programs, the DOL continues to provide assistance to ensure the protection of paid benefits for not only employees, but employers as well. Guidelines are regularly being issued for governmental entities in order to provide guidance and direction, serve as a reference, and aid in enactment for consistency in compliance.
To reaffirm the seriousness of compliance with FFCRA, the WHD announced enforcement action resulting in back pay for an employee denied the paid sick leave entitled to him under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It is of upmost importance for organizations to be vigilant and aware of all entitlements outlined by FFCRA. In the call with State and Local Officials and Stakeholders, U.S. Secretary of Labor Scalia stated, “When it comes to workplace safety, we want to provide guidance and clarity and help employers do the right thing. Most are working hard to do so. But we also know that unfortunately, enforcement may be needed in some cases. We have the tools we need and will use them if necessary.”
As states, counties, and cities contemplate their re-openings and the easing of restrictions, leadership must be cognizant of employees’ rights and protections, reference available guidelines, and enact policies and procedures to ensure a safe and healthy workplace. State and local governments must be persistent in managing worker’s benefits while on leave and protecting these workers once they return to work. In addition, it is imperative for employers to maneuver through a mire of sometimes conflicting guidelines, issued by various entities to ultimately ensure compliance to established laws. The U.S. Department of Labor continues to act as reference to not only to provide clarity and eliminate confusion, but to provide assistance and enforcement, when necessary.
The HR Consulting division of the Government & Economic Development Institute (GEDI) at Auburn University invites you to participate in future topics and discussions by submitting comments, questions, and issues that your local government would like to have addressed, to email@example.com.
ABOUT GEDI: As a part of University Outreach, the Government and Economic Development Institute's mission is promoting effective government policy and management, civic engagement, economic prosperity, and improved quality of life for the State of Alabama and its communities.
Katrina Washington is a Human Resources Consultant with Auburn University’s Government and Economic Development Institute. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Adult Education at Auburn University. She can be reached at (334) 844-4735 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: April 30, 2020