COVID-19: DOL Orders Employer to Pay Back Wages After Employee Is Denied Paid Sick Leave For Doctor-Ordered Quarantine

A recent ruling by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) signals the start of the forecasted avalanche of government claims and civil litigation arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and related emergency legislation. Investigators from the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) found that the employer Discount Tire Centers failed to pay its employee paid sick leave pursuant to the newly passed Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPLSA), which requires certain employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees who need to take leave from work for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

Based on the investigatory findings, the DOL ordered Discount Tire Centers to pay the employee’s full wages of $2,606 for two weeks of leave covering the hours the employee spent at home after the company received documentation of his doctor’s instructions to self-quarantine. Discount Tire Centers also agreed to fully comply with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)—the main legislation that includes the EPSLA and expands the Family and Medical Leave Act—which went into effect on April 1, 2020.

The DOL’s ruling underscores the importance of employers staying abreast of the ever-unfolding regulatory landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies must adapt their payroll and personnel policies and procedures to ensure real-time compliance with the new legislation while remaining vigilant in their adherence to long-standing laws governing employer-employee relations.