Employers that rehire workers they previously furloughed during the pandemic must honor any paid-leave benefits they accrued prior to the employment separation, and can’t extend a temporary layoff based on a request for additional leave, the Labor Department said in new guidance.
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division posted updated guidance Monday to clarify four return-to-work scenarios under the March virus-relief law, which temporarily gave workers at medium-sized businesses access to up to 12 weeks of paid sick and family leave.
For instance, if an employee accrued four weeks of paid-leave benefits after the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127) went into effect April 1 but before they were furloughed, they are still eligible for the remaining eight-week balance if the employer brings them back to work, the agency said.
Further, when an employer recalls furloughed workers due to a state quarantine order being lifted, and a worker then requests benefits under the emergency law to care for a child, the employer would be illegally discriminating against that worker if it used the request as a reason to maintain the furlough, the guidance stated.
The agency’s updated guidance comes at a time when businesses and workers are grappling with a looming child-care crisis that could arise when a parent’s employer resumes operations in the fall but their child’s school opts to use a remote-learning plan.
“With so many workers and employers committed to the greatest comeback the American workforce has ever seen, we are providing ongoing guidance to help them better understand their rights and responsibilities to protect workers and help ensure a level playing field for employers as our economy recovers,” WHD Administrator Cheryl Stanton said in an accompanying statement.