In March, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), a new federal law providing emergency paid leave to covered workers for certain COVID-related purposes. Last month, in response to an action by the New York Attorney General’s office, the Southern District of New York issued a decision striking down several elements of the US Department of Labor’s regulations issued under the FFCRA. Recently, the Department of Labor issued new revised regulations, which make several changes in response to the court’s decision, along with corresponding updates to the frequently asked questions. These new regulations will become effective immediately upon their formal publication in the Federal Register, expected to occur on February 16.
In early March as COVID-19 was just beginning to spread in the U.S., we listed the 7 states and 11 cities and counties that give workers access to paid sick time that can be used when their workplace or child’s school or place of care is closed for a public health emergency. Since then, and as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, an increasing number of jurisdictions have enacted emergency paid sick time laws. A Better Balance is tracking these emergency sick time developments nationwide.
As the pandemic continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of workers across the country, we must take action. Congress must pass the HEROES Act and enact a strong federal paid leave program for all workers and their families. So before the August recess, ask your U.S. Senators to pass the HEROES Act—and spread the word! As proud leading members of the Paid Leave for All campaign, we urge everyone to take action this week so we can work together towards paid leave for all working people.
Our new publication, Families First: Workers' Voices During the Pandemic, features the narratives of dozens of workers we've spoken with through our free legal helpline who are struggling to protect their health, care for their families, and stay afloat economically during these unprecedented times. Featured within are stories from workers across 26 states, many of whom have been unable to access emergency leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) due to significant loopholes in the law, and are left with little recourse to avoid jeopardizing their health or their economic security.
Mothers have long faced economic inequality in the United States. Early June marked Moms’ Equal Pay Day, symbolizing how long it took moms to earn what dads earned in 2019. U.S. Census data from 2019 indicated that women working full time in the U.S. earned $0.82 for every dollar that men made in their jobs. However, mothers make just $0.70 for every dollar white, non-Hispanic fathers make. The pandemic has only intensified the problem, as mothers are being forced to choose between their jobs and their caregiving responsibilities.
On July 14, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, which guarantees workers the right to earn paid sick time. A Better Balance was thrilled to play a pivotal role in the campaign. The victory in Colorado is especially significant given the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis. Paid sick leave has been shown to improve public health, reduce the spread of contagion, and provide a critical safety net to workers who are struggling to make ends meet.
The last few weeks have brought mixed news about court challenges to paid sick leave laws in Minnesota and Texas. To start with the good news: the Supreme Court of Minnesota handed down a decision on June 10, 2020 upholding Minneapolis’s paid sick leave ordinance, which was first enacted in 2017. The Court first held that the ordinance did not conflict with state law and affirmed the ability of localities in Minnesota to pass paid sick time laws.
In early April, New York State enacted an emergency paid sick leave law that allows workers with a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation in relation to COVID-19 (or who need to care for a minor child with such an order) to take paid leave from work. Since its passage, the law has exempted workers who were subject to quarantine because they traveled to certain countries for non-work-related reasons from the law’s protections. And recently, the law was changed to exempt certain workers who travel within the United States.
Today, we honor the millions of men in this country who care for children, and the millions more who provide care for an older family member or sick loved one. For dads and caregivers like Jeffrey everywhere, now more than ever, knowing their rights is critical. For example, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act covers many workers with paid sick leave to care for themselves and their loved ones when affected by the coronavirus, as well as paid family leave for use when a child’s school or place of care is closed.
On June 15, the Colorado General Assembly passed SB 205, which will guarantee that workers across the state can earn a modest amount of paid sick leave. The bill will allow workers to care for themselves or a family member when sick or experiencing domestic abuse or sexual assault. Colorado joins 12 states, Washington D.C., and dozens of cities in establishing a basic legal right to paid sick time.