MARCH 30, 2020
The United States Department of Labor issued guidance in response to the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address whether law enforcement personnel are exempt from the benefits afforded under the Act. Specifically, the Act exempted “emergency responders” from the extended paid sick leave and extended family medical leave. However, the Act did not define an “emergency responder.” The DOL has answered the question by publishing additional guidance expressly holding that law enforcement officers are exempt. This means that police officers are not eligible for the extended paid sick leave benefit or the extended family and medical leave benefit established by the Act.
See: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions published by the Department of Labor for the operative guidance. Specifically, Question/Answer No. 57, provides:
Who is an emergency responder?
For the purposes of employees who may be excluded from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA, an emergency responder is an employee who is necessary for the provision of transport, care, health care, comfort, and nutrition of such patients, or whose services are otherwise needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is an emergency responder necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.
To minimize the spread of the virus associated with COVID-19, the Department encourages employers to be judicious when using this definition to exempt emergency responders from the provisions of the FFCRA.
In light of the DOL’s recent guidance, municipal employers should consider excluding police officers from the benefits afforded through the Act to ensure adequate staffing exists to meet your law enforcement needs for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you have any questions about the application of this law, the attorneys in Siana Law’s Employment Practice Group are available to assist you.
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