Tagged: Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

FFCRA Benefits Become Optional and Unemployment Benefits Change With New Stimulus Package

On December 27, 2020, President Donald Trump signed the fourth major COVID-19 response bill into law. The stimulus package includes focused relief in a variety of areas (see our December 21, 2020 post), but two important elements are worth highlighting for employers. First, there have been several changes to pandemic-related unemployment insurance benefits since guidelines were first provided last spring. Second, the emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave benefits provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), explained here, expired on December 31, 2020 and were not extended, but employers who opt to offer them remain eligible for tax credits. Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits Supplement and Extension The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) provided eligible recipients of state unemployment benefits with an additional $600 per week in federal benefits, which expired in July 2020. The new stimulus package provides eligible individuals who are already collecting state-provided unemployment benefits with an additional $300 per week in federal benefits ($300 less than the last stimulus relief package) for up to 11 weeks through March 14, 2021. These payments, however, are not retroactive to July 2020. The new stimulus package also extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs. PUA provides benefits to individuals...

The DOL Amends FFCRA Paid Leave Rule

The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“DOL”) recently announced amendments to regulations regarding the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). By way of background, and as discussed in detail in our prior blog post, the FFCRA provides two types of leave to employees of covered employers (private employers with fewer than 500 employees and public employers of any size, with certain exceptions) – emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and expanded family and medical leave (EFML). An employee may be eligible for 80 hours of EPSL if he or she is unable to work or telework (without regard to the employee’s length of employment) if the employee: Is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; Has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; Is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order, or has “been advised” to self-quarantine; Is caring for a child, because the child’s school or place of care has been closed (or the child’s care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or Is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health...

The U.S. Supreme Court Declines Review of Seventh Circuit Decision Rejecting Extended Leave as a Reasonable Accomodation for Disabled Employees under the ADA

On April 2, 2018, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal in Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., a decision of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that rejected a disabled employee’s claim that, as an accommodation for his disability, he was entitled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“the ADA”) to leave beyond the maximum 12 weeks authorized by the Family and Medical Leave Act (“the FMLA”). The Seventh Circuit’s Decision Because of back pain, Raymond Severson took the maximum 12 weeks of leave permitted by the FMLA. On the last day of his leave he underwent back surgery, which required him to remain out of work for another two to three months. His employer rejected his request to extend his leave for an additional three months and terminated his employment, although did invite him to reapply when he was medically cleared to return to work. Instead of reapplying, Severson brought suit under the ADA, alleging that the employer failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for his disability by denying his request for extended leave. The district court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The Seventh Circuit’s analysis of the issue was straightforward. “A ‘reasonable accommodation’ is one that allows the disabled employee to ‘perform the...

New York Employers Mid-Year Review

In 2017, employers in New York encountered several important statutory changes affecting recruitment of applicants and retention of independent contractors. More legal change will come in 2018, warranting a mid-year review of current employment and hiring practices, as well as preparation for next year’s developments. Employers should take the time now to audit current practices and prepare for the imminent future. Pay Equity On May 4, 2017, Local Law 67 was enacted to prohibit all employers in New York City from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history (including current or prior wages, benefits, and other compensation), and from relying on an applicant’s salary history when determining his or her compensation package during the hiring process, including contract negotiations. The law applies to both public and private employers and employment agencies, and to their employees and agents (collectively, “employers”). Employers may, however, engage in communications with an applicant about his or her expectations as to salary, benefits, and compensation, including any deferred compensation or unvested equity which the applicant may forfeit as a result of leaving his or her current employer. In addition, if the candidate voluntarily (and without any prompting by the prospective employer), discloses his or her salary history to the prospective employer, the employer may consider salary history in determining compensation for the applicant,...

Federal DOL Rescinds Joint Employer and Independent Contractor Guidance

On June 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”), announced that it was rescinding two significant and heavily-criticized Obama-era Administrator’s Interpretations, the first on joint employer liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq. (“FLSA”) and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. (“MSPA”) (the “Joint Employer AI”), and the second on independent contractor misclassification under the FLSA (the “Independent Contractor AI”). In its June 7th statement concerning the rescissions, the DOL made its intentions clear: Removal of the two administrator interpretations does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act or Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, as reflected in the Department’s long-standing regulations and case law. The Department will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. Although neither AI constituted a legal precedent, the January 2016 Joint Employer AI presented the DOL’s analysis of the joint employer principles under caselaw interpreting the FLSA and the MSPA. Gibbons issued an alert about the Joint Employer AI when it was first published. The underlying caselaw is not affected by the DOL’s withdrawal...

Third Circuit Decides Good Faith Belief of FMLA Abuse Justifies Termination

There are occasions when an employer becomes concerned that an employee on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA” or “the Act”) is using the leave for purposes not authorized by the Act. That situation was presented in Capps v. Mondelez Global, LLC, a recently issued opinion from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. There, the Court held that an employer’s good faith belief that an employee was abusing his authorized FMLA leave constituted sufficient grounds on which to terminate the employee. The case provides valuable guidance as to how employers should proceed in such situations. The Facts Frederick Capps worked as a dough mixing machine operator for Mondelez Global (“Mondelez”). Because of a blood flow condition, Capps underwent bilateral hip replacement. At times thereafter, he suffered from severe leg pain and was continuously recertified approximately every six months for intermittent FMLA leave for his condition. On the evening of February 14, 2013, Capps was arrested for driving under the influence and spent the night in jail. He had not reported to work that day having called Mondelez’s FMLA message line complaining of leg pain. On August 7, 2013, Capps pled guilty to a DUI charge and spent 72 hours in jail immediately following the guilty plea. The company did not have a policy...

Second Circuit Holds Human Resources Director May Be Individually Liable Under FMLA

Employers should be aware that the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has held, in Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, that supervising employees can be held individually liable under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for retaliation and interference with an employee’s FMLA rights. The Court also formally adopted standards for FMLA interference claims and for claims brought pursuant to the associational discrimination provision of the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

New York State Enacts a New Paid Family Leave Law

New York State recently passed the Paid Family Leave Benefits Law, which is among the strongest and most comprehensive leave statutes in the country. The new law amends the State’s current disability law, and imposes obligations on employers beginning in 2018. Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the NY law will provide both protected leave and paid benefits during the leave. The new law covers employers in the for-profit sector, with at least one employee, along with certain other employers in the public and not-for-profit sectors.

Federal DOL Issues Joint Employer Guidance to Interpret FLSA and MSPA

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) recently issued an Administrator’s Interpretation (“Interpretation”) on joint employer liability under the Fair Labor Standards, Act, 29 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq. and the Migrant Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., that provides additional guidance to employers but also may demonstrate the DOL’s increased efforts to focus on joint employer liability for wage and hour compliance. According to the WHD, the workplace increasingly involves use of outsourcing, shared employees, integrated employers, and other forms of co-dependent business models. The WHD seeks to ensure compliance with wage and hour laws for entities that rely upon such alternative workforces. While the Interpretation is not binding upon the courts and constitutes guidance for employers, it lists factors extrapolated from court decisions, other DOL guidance, and related sources that should be considered where an employer utilizes alternative labor sources or has sister or related entities that share common operations or are interdependent.

DOL Extends FMLA Spousal Care Leave Rights to Same-Sex Spouses

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently issued a Final Rule revising the definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to include same-sex spouses for purposes of FMLA leave, regardless of the couple’s state of residence. Under the prior FMLA regulations, whether or not an employee had a “spouse” was determined by the law of the state where the employee resided. Notably, however, the Final Rule does not expand the definition of “spouse” to include domestic partners. Rather, only employees who are legally married are covered under the new regulations. The Final Rule takes effect on March 27, 2015.