A federal judge has struck down the Department of Labor’s restrictions on which workers can access a temporary federal paid leave program, according to court documents released Monday.
Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said that the paid-leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act exceeded the agency’s authority under federal law. In particular, Oetken wrote that the term “healthcare provider” as used in the FFCRA and defined by the Labor Department is “vastly overbroad” and includes employees “who are not even arguably necessary or relevant to the healthcare system’s vitality,” exempting them from eligibility for up to 12 weeks of paid sick and family leave.
The decision applies nationally and hands a victory to the New York attorney general’s office, which filed the lawsuit in April. It also will require healthcare employers to re-examine whether they must provide paid leave to certain employees and take steps to ensure that they have enough caregivers on hand to provide needed care.
“It’s important to keep in mind that like all other health care providers, nursing homes and assisted living communities have to delicately balance ensuring that there are enough caregivers to properly aid residents and patients, while also making sure sick employees do not create unnecessary, additional risks to residents,” the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living told McKnight’s Senior Living in a statement. “We look forward to working with the Department of Labor once it announces how it intends to proceed following this recent decision.”
Before the Labor Department had defined healthcare providers to include senior living in late March, thereby excluding senior living operators from the COVID-19 relief bill’s paid leave requirement, Argentum and the American Seniors Housing Association had expressed concerns about the FFCRA’s allowances for additional paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, saying that the allowances could “decimate” the senior living workforce.