A New York federal judge struck down or limited several of the Department of Labor (DOL)’s restrictions on federal COVID-19 paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA): (1) work availability requirement, (2) healthcare worker exemption, (3) intermittent leave employer consent, and (4) requirement to submit documentation before taking leave.
Work availability requirement
First, the judge struck down the limitation that employees may not use COVID-19 leave under the FFCRA if their employers do not have work for them. Basically, if an employer shuts down due to COVID-19 quarantine, government order, or lack of business, an otherwise qualifying employee cannot use FFCRA leave.
Restrictions on healthcare workers
The DOL applied the statutory exclusion for “health care providers” to any employee of a healthcare business. The judge limited the health care provider exclusion to those health care workers providing health care services to patients–not ancillary workers at health care businesses (e.g., cafeteria workers, office workers, etc.). It is unclear, however, how broadly that exemption can be interpreted.
Intermittent leave restrictions
The DOL rules allow intermittent COVID-19 paid sick and family leave only if the employer agrees to it and only if the intermittent leave would not risk the spread of COVID-19 to other employees. The court struck down the employer consent requirement but kept the restrictions on intermittent leave where virus spread is a concern–suspected infection, quarantine of the employee or a family member, or illness of the employee or a family member. As it stands, intermittent leave is available only for unavailable child care or school closures–now, without employer consent.
The judge struck down the requirement to provide documentation of the reason for leave, the duration of leave, and the authority ordering isolation or quarantine before taking leave. It appears that the employer can still require documentation–but not as a condition before taking the leave.