Employers struggling to comply with new COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave provisions should note that official government enforcement actions will not begin until April 17th.

According to a Field Assistance Bulletin issued on March 25th, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will not bring enforcement actions against any public or private employer for violations of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) until April 17th, 2020, provided that the employer has made reasonable, good faith efforts to comply with the law.   The April 17th enforcement date coincides with a 30-day “stay period” beginning from the date the FFCRA was signed into law, which was March 18th, 2020.

The new law (which took effect on April 1st) requires businesses with less than 500 employees to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave, plus emergency family and medical leave, to eligible employees for qualifying reasons related to the COVID-19 health crisis.   The paid sick leave will be refunded to the employer dollar-for-dollar via a refundable tax credit.

The DOL’s bulletin further explains that any employer who is found to have violated the FFCRA will be determined to have acted “reasonably” and “in good faith” when all of the following facts are present:

  1. The employer remedies any violations, including by making all affected employees whole as soon as practicable.
  2. The violations of the Act were not “willful”
  3. The Department receives a written commitment from the employer to comply with the Act in the future.

Conversely, employers who are found to willfully violate the Act and do not demonstrate a commitment to future compliance and employee protections will be subject to potential fines and penalties.

After April 17th, 2020, this limited stay of enforcement will be lifted, and the Department will fully enforce violations of the Act, as appropriate and consistent with the law.  The agency will retroactively enforce violations back until the effective date of April 1, 2020, if employers have not remedied the violations.  These penalties could cost the employer up to $10,000 for each willful violation or result in imprisonment.

For information and communication solutions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit our online COVID-19 Resource Center.