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Stories From Our Helpline: Workers Excluded From Federal Paid Leave Protections

Stories from Our Helpline: Workers Excluded from Federal Paid Leave Protections

Through our free legal helpline, we’ve been hearing from workers across the country who are facing economic insecurity and struggling to care for themselves and their loved ones due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides critical emergency paid sick leave and paid family leave rights for many workers during this pandemic—but too many workers, including those at large corporations, are excluded from the law.

Here are some stories from workers who are excluded from the FFCRA, and therefore were unable to take the emergency paid leave they needed:

Kayla* is a supermarket worker in Washington State. She has metabolic disorders including type 1 diabetes. Advised by her doctor to self-quarantine due to the risk of complications from the virus, she requested a leave of absence from her job.

She quickly exhausted her remaining sick time while on leave, and she was not eligible for emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA because her employer has 500 or more employees.

Mariam*, a healthcare worker at a nursing home in Florida, suffered COVID-19 symptoms and was ordered to quarantine for 14 days by her doctor.

During this time, she received no pay from her employer, and had no PTO to use, leaving her scared for her health and her financial wellbeing. Since she is a healthcare worker, her employer was not required to provide her with emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

Stefano*, a paramedic in NYC, is caring for his pregnant fiancée, who tested positive for COVID-19, as well as her son, whose school is closed due to COVID-19.

Invoking the emergency responder exemption, his employer told him that he doesn’t qualify for paid leave under the FFCRA. He exhausted all his PTO and had no choice after that but to take unpaid leave to care for his fiancée and her son.

Maria* is a factory worker in Illinois who has been employed at her company for more than three decades. She is fearful of contracting the coronavirus at work and exposing her husband, who suffers from various health conditions.

She was approved for FMLA leave to care for her husband, but she cannot afford to actually take it because it is unpaid. Her employer is likely too large to be covered by FFCRA, meaning she is not eligible for emergency paid sick leave.

The devastating stories like this go on. At A Better Balance, we are providing workers across the country with the vital know-your-rights information they need to care for themselves and their loved ones. But for those workers who are excluded from the FFCRA, we should have a better answer. The answer should be that there is comprehensive, paid leave for all available to every worker in the U.S.

If you have questions or would like to share your story, contact A Better Balance’s free legal helpline.

*Names changed to protect confidentiality

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