ICYMI: U.S. Department of Labor Acts to Help American Workers And Employers During the Coronavirus Pandemic
WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor took a range of actions to aid American workers and employers as our nation combats the coronavirus pandemic.
- Roundtable with President Trump, Vice President Pence, Secretary Scalia, and Industry Leaders – Secretary Scalia remarked, “I have been very pleased to hear the discussion among this group about all the steps that companies are taking to keep their workers safe. I think we all appreciate that confidence on the part of workers that they will be safe in the workplace is going to be an important part of the reopening, as well as confidence in the part of business about what needs to be done, and that when those steps are taken, they will have satisfied their obligations.”
- Secretary Scalia Participates in Call with the American Legislative Exchange Council – Secretary Scalia joined a conference call to update state legislators and stakeholders on the Administration’s coronavirus response efforts. The Secretary noted the progress made by states in distributing the enhanced unemployment benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as well as the department’s focus on unemployment insurance program integrity. He also reiterated the department’s commitment to workplace safety requirements and highlighted the extensive guidance provided to employers by OSHA.
Keeping America’s Workplaces Safe and Healthy:
- Statement of Enforcement Policy by Solicitor of Labor Kate O’Scannlain and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA Loren Sweatt regarding Meat and Poultry Processing Facilities – Responding to President Trump’s Executive Order, Solicitor of Labor Kate O’Scannlain and OSHA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren Sweatt released a statement of enforcement policy. The statement, which addresses guidance and enforcement actions regarding worker safety at meat, pork and poultry processing facilities, provides clarity for businesses whose continued operation will be critical to America’s food supply.
- OSHA and CDC Issue Interim Guidance to Protect Workers in Meatpacking and Processing Industries – OSHA and the CDC have released joint interim guidance for meatpacking and meat processing workers and employers – including those involved in beef, pork and poultry operations. The guidance includes recommended actions employers can take to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
- OSHA Issue Safety Alert for Restaurant, Food and Beverage Businesses Providing Curbside Pickup and Takeout Service – OSHA has released guidance to help restaurant, food and beverage businesses to keep employees safe while utilizing curbside pickup and takeout service delivery methods. The guidance includes practical recommendations like avoiding direct hand-off when possible and practicing social distancing.
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Statement Commemorating Workers’ Memorial Day – Secretary Scalia released a statement remembering workers who died on the job. He remarked, “Workers’ Memorial Day is a day for us to join together in remembering those who have lost their lives while doing their jobs. As we memorialize workers who have lost their lives, we are mindful of the U.S. Department of Labor’s important role in working with employers and workers to create a national culture of safety. We are dedicated to working diligently every day to keep American workers safe and healthy on the job.”
On Unemployment Insurance:
- U.S. Department of Labor Announces that all 50 States and the District of Columbia Are Paying Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Benefits – The CARES Act offered an increase in unemployment benefits paid through state unemployment offices. Secretary Scalia offered comments as the few remaining states started paying benefits this week, stating, “I am pleased to report that as of yesterday (April 28, 2020), all 50 states and the District of Columbia are offering the additional $600 unemployment insurance payment under the CARES Act, which President Trump signed at the end of last month.”
- U.S. Department of Labor Awards Over $30 Million in Dislocated Worker Grants in Response to the Coronavirus Public Health Emergency – Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Employment and Training Administration John Pallasch marked additional Dislocated Worker Grants, saying, “The CARES Act provides valuable relief to American workers who are affected by coronavirus. The grants awarded today will help Americans return to work in roles that focus on addressing the impact of coronavirus in their communities.”
- Statement by Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia on Unemployment Insurance Claims – Secretary Scalia stated, “As states begin the process of reopening and Americans return to work, today’s unemployment report reflects once again the hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The President’s actions and policies will continue to support American workers during this crisis.”
- Unemployment Insurance Program Letter on Temporary Full Federal Funding of the First Week of Compensable Regular Unemployment for States with No Waiting Week – The Employment and Training Administration issued an Unemployment Insurance Program Letter to provide guidance to states regarding the implementation of a CARES Act provision that provides full federal funding for the first week of regular unemployment compensation, if states waive their waiting week provision or amend their state law to provide compensation during the first week of regular unemployment.
Defending Workers’ Rights to Paid Leave
- Southern California Tire Company to Pay Back Wages After Denying Paid Sick Leave To Worker Whose Doctor Ordered Coronavirus Quarantine – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, a Southern California Tire Company will pay an employee $2,606 in back wages for refusing to provide sick leave under the newly passed Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, after his healthcare provider advised that he self-quarantine while awaiting a family member’s test for coronavirus.
New Guidance for Employee Benefit Plans
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues COVID-19 Relief and Guidance for Employee Benefit Plans – “EBSA will continue to safeguard the employee benefits of American workers while ensuring that employers and plans have the flexibility they need to continue delivering benefits during this challenging time,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for EBSA, Preston Rutledge. The notice issued by EBSA extends certain deadlines related to coverage under COBRA, giving participants adequate time to make key healthcare decisions during this time of uncertainty.
Opening America’s Workplaces
- U.S. Department of Labor Invites the Public to Participate in National Online Dialogue on Opening America’s Workplaces Again – As the U.S. Department of Labor continues its efforts to support American workers and position the economy for a strong rebound, the department is hosting a national online dialogue on “Opening America’s Workplaces Again,” to solicit ideas from the public on how best to help employers and workers reopen America’s workplaces safely.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Labor is focused on protecting the safety and health of American workers, assisting our state partners as they deliver traditional unemployment and expanded unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, ensuring Americans know their rights to new paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave, providing guidance and assistance to employers, and carrying out the mission of the department.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.