Calif. Co. Settles Claim It Stiffed Workers On COVID-19 Pay

By Michael Angell
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Law360 (November 30, 2020, 8:06 PM EST) -- A sheet metal fabricator in California has agreed to pay workers back wages after the U.S. Department of Labor found the company violated the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by paying workers only part of their regular rates when they took COVID-19 sick leave.

The DOL's Wage and Hour Division said Monday that Delta Fabrication in Canoga Park will pay $19,694 in back wages to 71 employees after an investigation found Delta wrongly paid the workers two-thirds of their regular rates for taking sick leave due to COVID-19.

The FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to two weeks of paid sick leave at workers' regular rate of pay when they take off work due to an order to quarantine or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 before a medical diagnosis.

DOL investigators found that Delta used its employees' regular, accrued sick days to compensate them for COVID-19-related leave, instead of using the FFCRA's provision for an additional two weeks of paid sick leave.

When informed about the correct policy, "Delta Fabrication immediately restored the sick leave hours to workers' leave balances, and paid the missing one-third of their pay," the DOL said in a press release.

"We appreciate that the employer stepped up to the plate to pay its workers properly after learning of its Families First Coronavirus Response Act responsibilities," said Wage and Hour Division District Director Kimchi Bui.

A different provision of the FFCRA allows employers to pay up to two weeks of sick leave at two-thirds of the employee's base rate to care for a person subject to quarantine, care for a child whose school has closed due to COVID-19, or if the employee is "experiencing a substantially similar condition," according to the DOL's guidance on the law.

The FFCRA, which Congress passed in March, provides paid sick leave to 61 million employees that work at 6 million small businesses, the DOL said when it released its rules for how employers can meet the law's provisions.

The DOL updated its rules for meeting the FFCRA's requirements in September, after a New York federal judge determined the agency's original guidance excluded too many workers and was too narrow in documentation requirements surrounding such leave.

The DOL is taking steps to make sure companies are complying with the FFCRA. In July, the Wage and Hour Division ordered a cable manufacturer in San Jose, California, to pay $41,214 in back wages to 17 employees after they were denied paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

In October, DOL investigators ordered a Best Western hotel in Wichita, Kansas, to pay $5,693 to 13 workers who the agency claimed were denied leave entitled to them under the FFCRA.

The DOL did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Delta Fabrication did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

--Editing by Haylee Pearl.

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