New Mexico Human Services Department Pays Back Wages to Employee Denied Sick Leave Allowed by Coronavirus-Related Circumstances
SANTA FE, NM – After an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), the New Mexico Human Services Department will pay $1,411 in back wages after initially refusing to provide paid sick leave to an employee who took leave to care for her three young children whose school closed due to coronavirus. The leave is permitted under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA).
WHD investigators found that the employer denied leave to the employee, a single mother of three. While allowed to telework, the employee was unable to work and balance the children’s needs. Instead of granting the paid leave, the New Mexico Human Services Department took disciplinary action for her inability to telework.
Part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), EPSLA allows employees to take leave when caring for sons or daughters whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to the coronavirus.
The New Mexico Human Services Department cooperated fully with federal investigators and once the employer understood its responsibility under the new law, agreed to pay the employee’s wages for the days she was off work to care for her children. The department also agreed to future FFCRA compliance, which went into effect on April 1, 2020.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to educate employers, including state and local governments, through our website and extensive outreach efforts to ensure that workers and employers have the information they need about the benefits and protections of this new law,” said Wage and Hour District Director Evelyn Sanchez in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “We commend the New Mexico Human Services Department for its cooperation in resolving this situation quickly, and for its commitment to future compliance.”
The department encourages employers and employees to contact the Wage and Hour Division for assistance to improve their understanding of new labor standards under the FFCRA and to use our educational online tools to avoid violations.
The FFCRA helps the U.S. combat and defeat the workplace effects of the coronavirus by giving tax credits to American businesses with fewer than 500 employees to either provide employees with paid leave for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. Please visit WHD’s “Quick Benefits Tips” for information about how much leave workers may qualify to use, and the wages employers must pay. The law enables employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.
WHD provides additional information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to the coronavirus and its effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and on job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.
For more information about the laws enforced by WHD, call 866-4US-WAGE, or visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd.
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.