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 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Reopening America’s Economy:
- Statement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia on Being Added to the White House Coronavirus Task Force – “President Trump and Vice President Pence have delivered steadfast leadership throughout the fight against the pandemic. As a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, I look forward to help bring Americans back to work–safely.”
Keeping America’s Workplaces Safe and Healthy:
- This week, OSHA continued its efforts to provide detailed, industry-specific guidance for several industries that each face unique challenges in keeping workers safe from coronavirus. Among the documents released this week is guidance aimed at employers who have a duty to keep workers in nursing home and long-term care facilities safe from coronavirus exposure. OSHA’s compliance assistant tools are available to all employers to help protect workers from hazards.
- The guidance documents released this week include:
- Alert for Dental Industry Practitioners
- Alert for Rideshare, Taxi And Car Service Workers
- Alert for Retail Pharmacy Workers
- Alert for Nursing Home and Long-Term Care Facility Workers
Helping Unemployed Americans:
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance Announcing the Availability of $100 Million in Short-Time Compensation Grant Funds for States – “The short-time compensation programs are a vital resource for states in phased reopening,” said Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training John P. Pallasch. “By facilitating the expansion of an important tool states can utilize to help bring Americans back to work, we hope that states leverage these funds when developing their re-opening plans.”
- U.S. Department of Labor Issues Guidance and Reminders to States To Ensure Integrity of Unemployment Insurance Programs – The Department of Labor issued targeted guidance and reminders that provide states with details regarding required integrity functions for their regular unemployment compensation programs, as well as those authorized by Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, in UIPL 23-20. The guidance aims to help states guard against fraud and abuse of their unemployment insurance systems.
- U.S. Department of Labor Provides Guidance on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program to States – The Department of Labor announced updated guidance, including FAQs, regarding the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program authorized by CARES Act.
- Temporary Changes to the Federal-State Extended Benefits (EB) Program – Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 24-20 provides guidance and responds to state inquiries related to the Federal-State Extended Benefits program and temporary changes to the program in accordance with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
- Helping States with Technology Needs – Secretary Scalia has marshaled the resources of the U.S. Digital Service, the Department of Labor Office of the Chief Information Officer, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Labor Office of Unemployment Insurance, and other organizations to assist States as they contend with unemployment insurance system IT issues arising from large claims volume and often outdated computer systems. Together, these agencies have conducted outreach and provided assistance on performance and scalability of systems, procurement prioritization with vendors, call center consultation, and architecture reviews. Several states have already engaged the Department for help, and it remains available to help any state that would like its services.
Defending Workers’ Rights to Paid Leave
- Wage and Hour Administrator Cheryl Stanton authored a blog post regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Administrator Stanton wrote about how eligible employees working for covered employers can access paid leave under the FFCRA by checking with their employer, requesting the leave, and letting their employer know which of the qualifying conditions applies.
- U.S. Department of Labor to Offer Families First Coronavirus Response Act Webinars to Educate Employees, Employers, State and Local Governments – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division will offer three webinars the week of May 18, 2020, for employees, employers, and state and local governments in the division’s Southeast region to educate them on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
- Indiana Trucking Company Pays Back Wages to Worker Denied Paid Sick Leave While Experiencing Coronavirus Symptoms and Seeking Diagnosis – A truck driver has received $3,017 in back wages after being denied emergency paid sick leave while he was experiencing coronavirus symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. The Wage and Hour Division found the employer violated the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provisions of the FFCRA.
- West Texas Paving Company to Pay Back Wages to Worker Denied Paid Sick Leave Despite Doctor’s Order for Coronavirus Quarantine – After an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division an employer will pay an employee $1,200 in back wages after failing to provide the employee paid sick leave under the newly passed Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, part of the FFCRA.
- Hawaii Food Retailer to Pay Back Wages to Employee Wrongly Denied Paid Sick Leave to Care for Child After Coronavirus Closes School – Wage and Hour Division investigators found an employer in violation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provisions of the FFCRA due to the employer denying leave entitled to an employee. When advised of its obligations, the employer agreed to pay $800 in paid sick leave benefits to the employee as required. The employer also agreed to display the FFCRA poster, which details employer obligations and employee rights to coronavirus-related sick leave, until December 31, 2020.
- Arizona Company to Pay Back Wages After Denying Paid Sick Leave To Employee Whose Doctor Ordered Coronavirus Quarantine – Wage and Hour Division investigators found an employer paid sick leave for only two of the 13 days the employee spent self-quarantined at the direction of his doctor after potential exposure to the virus.
Helping Dislocated Workers
- U.S. Department of Labor Awards Over $26 Million in Dislocated Worker Grants in Response to Coronavirus Public Health Emergency – The U.S. Department of Labor announced the award of seven Dislocated Worker Grants totaling $26,751,963 to help address the workforce-related impacts of the public health emergency related to coronavirus. This latest award follows three previous waves of funding, bringing the total amount awarded to states and territories to $198,221,958.
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.