AG James Sues Trump Administration Over Unlawful Regulations Restricting Coronavirus-Based Paid Sick Leave
New U.S. Department of Labor Rule Narrows Workers’ Rights to Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family Leave Guaranteed by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration challenging its rule that unlawfully narrows workers’ rights to paid sick leave and emergency family leave during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The regulations put forth by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) contradict the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and risk denying vital financial support during an unprecedented crisis and exposing workers, their families, and their communities to unnecessary spread of COVID-19.
Additionally, Attorney General James filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting that the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York block the Trump Administration’s regulations and restore the FFCRA to its intended effect.
“As the efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 continue, I will continue to leverage the powers of my office to serve as a frontline defense for protecting the rights of people, especially those who need a hand up at this time,” said Attorney General James. “The paid sick leave and emergency family leave provisions of the FFCRA were enacted to protect public health and to provide economic security to working families. The Trump Administration’s rule makes it harder for New Yorkers and Americans throughout the country to claim these paid benefits, which unnecessarily puts more workers at risk of exposure to COVID-19. I will fight to prevent that from happening.”
In what is the first-ever federal law mandating the right to paid leave for private sector workers in the country’s history, the FFCRA, enacted on March 18, includes key provisions requiring job-protected paid sick leave and emergency family leave for employees unable to work due to COVID-19. Up to 61 million employees are potentially eligible for paid sick leave or emergency family leave under the FFCRA. Congress enacted the paid sick leave and emergency family leave provisions in the FFCRA both to stem the rate of coronavirus transmission—by encouraging sick workers to stay home but still be paid—and to protect the economic well-being of workers who must stay at home to care for their children during this period of unprecedented national disruption. The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions assist in the implementation of the directives laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calling for residents to take the necessary steps to lessen the spread of COVID-19, and protect themselves, their families, and their communities from devastating harm.
On April 1, DOL published a rule to implement the paid sick leave and emergency family leave requirements of the FFCRA. In the lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Attorney General James argues that the new rule violates the law by:
- Unlawfully denying paid sick leave and emergency family leave to otherwise eligible employees if the employer determines—for any reason—that the employer does not have work for the employee; and
- Enabling the denial of the FFCRA’s paid sick leave and emergency family leave benefits to large classes of otherwise eligible workers by including them in an unlawfully broad definition of “health care provider.”
Further, Attorney General James also argues that DOL exceeds its authority under the FFCRA by:
- Prohibiting employees from taking their paid sick leave or emergency family leave intermittently absent their employer’s consent; and
- Conditioning an employee’s eligibility for paid sick leave or emergency family leave on the employee having previously provided documentation to the employer, including such unspecified documentation as may be required by a separate federal agency.
This case is being handled by Special Counsel to the Solicitor General Eric Haren and Assistant Attorneys General Fiona Kaye and Daniela Nogueira of the Division of Federal Initiatives, under the supervision of Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo, and with assistance from Senior Data Analyst Chris Nelson and Deputy Director Megan Thorsfeldt of the Research and Analytics Department.