“The Trump administration is robbing workers of the paid sick days and paid leave Congress passed into law for them. That is unconscionable.”
Two Democratic members of Congress on Thursday accused the Department of Labor of quietly “twisting the law” to limit the scope of already inadequate paid sick leave provisions contained in a coronavirus stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed into law last month.
Over the weekend, the Labor Department—headed by former corporate lawyer Eugene Scalia—published policy guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said creates several “gratuitous loopholes” allowing corporations to limit the number of employees eligible for paid leave.
“The Trump administration is twisting the law to allow employers to shirk their responsibility and is significantly narrowing which workers are eligible for paid leave,” Murray said in a statement. “This simply can’t stand. This guidance needs to be rewritten so workers get the leave they are guaranteed under the law.”
“This simply can’t stand. This guidance needs to be rewritten so workers get the leave they are guaranteed under the law.”
—Sen. Patty Murray
The FFCRA, which Trump signed into law on March 18, provides two weeks of paid sick leave to eligible workers who fall ill and 12 weeks of leave to workers caring for children whose schools have closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill excludes workers at companies with more than 500 employees.
In a detailed letter (pdf) to Scalia on Wednesday, Murray and DeLauro said the Labor Department’s guidance blatantly “contradict[s] the plain language of the FFCRA and violate congressional intent.”
One example Murray and DeLauro highlighted is the Labor Department’s definition of “unable to work.”
“You are unable to work if your employer has work for you and one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA prevents you from being able to perform that work, either under normal circumstances at your normal worksite or by means of telework,” the Labor Department wrote in its guidance.