Earlier this week, the Department of Labor issued additional guidance for workers and employers discussing how the protections and requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) impact returning to work. The FFCRA was enacted at the end of March to provide emergency paid sick leave and family leave for certain workers affected by COVID-19. See below for some highlights from the new Department of Labor guidance:
- If an employee was eligible for extended FMLA leave and used a portion of it prior to being furloughed, they are entitled to their remaining leave upon their return to work. The period of time an employee was on furlough does not count against their FFCRA/FMLA leave entitlement.
- An employee returning to work after caring for a family member diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 is entitled to their same or an equivalent position. However, employers may bring an employee back to work in a position that requires less face-to-face interaction with others.
- Employers who furloughed employees due to a quarantine or stay-at-home order and are considering reopening after the order expires, may not extend an employee’s furlough just because the employee would need to take FFCRA leave upon return to work. This behavior is considered discrimination and/or retaliation against employees for utilizing their FFCRA leave and is prohibited by the Department of Labor.
FFCRA leave currently expires on December 31, 2020. It is unknown whether federal legislation will extend the FFCRA. Due to the complexity of the FFCRA and its interactions with Illinois and local law, we suggest that employers contact counsel with any questions involving FFCRA leave and returning to work.