January 26, 2021

Employment Law

What are Minnesota Employees’ COVID Leave Rights Now that the FFCRA Expired?

From April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020 the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) required private businesses comprised of 500 employees or less and certain public employers to offer employees paid COVID leave or expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Now that FFCRA has expired what employee rights remain?

Violations of the FFCRA that Occurred in 2020 Still Enforceable

Employee rights from the effective period of April 1st to December 31st are still enforceable. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued a guidance reassuring it will hold its authority over employers’ responsibilities to provide paid leave under FFCRA while the Act’s paid leave requirements were in effect. This means that if an employer did not pay a qualifying employee for the FFCRA leave they took or requested during the effective period then the employee can file a complaint to the WHD. There is a two-year time frame for employees to file a complaint with the WHD or three-year limitation in matters involving willful violations. The guidance also explained that an employee may have a private right of action for alleged violations of FFCRA during its effective period. Contact an employment attorney if you believe your rights were violated.

Employers May Still Provide COVID Leave Voluntarily and Receive Tax Credits

Further, employees should know that employers may still voluntarily provide COVID leave and receive tax credits in return. Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) 2021, employers will receive tax credits for voluntarily providing paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to employees until March 31, 3021. The expansion of tax credits under CAA provides employers with an incentive to voluntarily provide FFCRA leave to employees. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) explained that this expansion helps ensure employees do not have to choose between their employment stability and the safety measures needed to fight COVID-19.

If employers do not voluntarily provide COVID leave under the FFCRA, employees may still be eligible for protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), particularly if the employee or family member is suffering additional health complications for a serious health condition. Further, employees may seek a reasonable accommodation from an employer for their own disability or serious health condition.

Employees May Still be Eligible for Leave Under State and Local Leave Laws

While the state of Minnesota does not require employers to provide personal sick leave benefits, Minnesota’s sick leave law does require that if an employer allows an employee to take leave for their own illness, it must also allow the employee to take time off to care for an ill child, spouse, sibling, parent or other family member. Further, under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), an employer may not discriminate or treat an employee adversely on the basis of their family status or caregiver responsibilities, meaning because they are a parent, legal guardian, or pregnant.

Finally, employees may be eligible for leave under local sick and safe time ordinances in several Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. Each city has its own requirements as to which employers are covered, who qualifies and what leave may be protected due to coronavirus. For example, protection under the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance extends to COVID screening, care or quarantine due to coronavirus, school and daycare closures due to COVID-19 and more. Similar protections are provided under the St. Paul Earned

Sick and Safe Time Ordinance. The Duluth Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance covers leave for COVID screening, providing or receiving care due to coronavirus symptoms or infection and testing or quarantine following close contact with a COVID-19 infected or symptomatic person. Click here for more information on these paid sick leave laws.

Contact Our Minnesota Employment Lawyers

The Minnesota employment lawyers of Wanta Thome PLC are committed to protecting the right of all Minnesota employees. If you have any questions about your leave of absence rights, contact us for a free initial consultation.