On August 2, 2020, a Manhattan federal judge ruled in favor of the State of New York by striking down the Trump administration’s standard for determining which employees are eligible for relief under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (“Act”).

The Department of Labor’s interpretation of the Act created excessive loopholes allowing employers to deny employees leave when they needed it most. The court rejected the DOL’s work availability requirement and partially rejected its requirement that certain workers receive an employer’s consent before taking intermittent leave.

Most significantly, the court’s decision put an end to the DOL’s extraordinary interpretation of the term “health care provider” to deny virtually everyone working in the health field the important sick leave benefits provided by the Act. The DOL previously defined “health care providers” to include anyone employed at “any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institutions, Employer, or entity.”  Levy Ratner submitted an amicus brief on behalf of 1199 and SEIU members to assist the State of New York in explaining to the court why the DOL’s interpretation was wrong. The court agreed that the DOL’s definition was “vastly overbroad.”

It is not clear how employers and the DOL will now interpret the Act. But, a greater number of healthcare workers should have access to extended sick leave and family and medical leave benefits if they are personally affected or need to take care of a family member affected by COVID-19, or are caring for a child whose place of care is closed due to COVID-19.

For more information on the benefits provided under the Act, reference earlier LR What You Need to Know Now articles here, here, and here. The benefits provided by the Act are set to last through December 31, 2020. Follow LR on LinkedIn to stay up to date as interpretation of the Act continues to evolve.

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