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Labor Department to Start Enforcing Virus Paid Leave April 18

March 25, 2020, 7:03 PM

Businesses that don’t pay workers their newly enacted paid leave entitlements under the coronavirus relief law won’t be subject to Labor Department enforcement until April 18, provided the employers act in good faith.

The DOL Wage and Hour Division, in a bulletin Wednesday, informed its investigators and the general public that the 30-day temporary non-enforcement period applies retroactively to the date the law was enacted March 18. That means starting April 18, the agency can assess back wages owed when any employer is found in violation of the new law.

The WHD is writing regulations, taking effect April 1, to implement the virus law. Generally, the law requires businesses with under 500 employees nationwide to give some workers two weeks of virus-related paid sick leave, along with 10 weeks of partially paid family leave to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to the pandemic.

Exemptions from the mandates are available for employers with under 50 employees that can prove their business viability would be jeopardized if forced to pay expanded leave benefits; health-care providers; and emergency responders. Specifics on these exemptions will be included in the forthcoming rules.

During the short non-enforcement window, the division will only extend leniency to employers that can prove they’re acting “reasonably” and in “good faith,” the WHD said.

To meet that standard, a business will need to demonstrate all three of the following: It must remedy the violations by paying workers all of their wages owed “as soon as practicable"; the violations weren’t “willful” under a 1988 court ruling, meaning the employer didn’t know about the violations or didn’t show “reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited;' and DOL receives a written commitment from the employer that it will comply with the law in the future.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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