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Association Expresses Workforce Concerns in COVID-19 Response Efforts

In recent comments to the Department of Labor (DOL), America’s Essential Hospitals expressed concerns about how the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the exemption provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will impact providers indispensable to COVID-19 response efforts.

The FFCRA mandated employers with fewer than 500 employers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to employees who must stay home with their children due to school or child care closures related to COVID-19. DOL issued implementing regulations broadly defining the types of health care providers exempt from this requirement. However, the agency also interpreted the 500-employee threshold only to apply to private employees and not to governmental entities, including public hospitals, meaning these entities must provide paid leave regardless of the number of employees.

While the association supports the broad definition of “health care provider” for purposes of the employee exemption, America’s Essential Hospitals argued the regulation still inequitably applies the FFCRA to public agencies compared with private employers. Moreover, the association expressed its concern about hospital staff exempt under the FLSA losing their exempt status if they are asked to perform non-exempt duties, such as shifting nurses from administrative roles to bedside duties.

To ensure essential hospitals receive proper resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the association asked DOL to consider:

  • clarifying the emergency exception under the FLSA includes declared public health and national emergencies, which would allow hospitals to assign exempt staff to non-exempt duties without forgoing their exempt status; and
  • interpreting the 500-employee threshold of the FFCRA to apply to all employers bound by the new leave requirements, including public agencies, and work with Congress to extend payroll tax credits to public agencies.

Visit the America’s Essential Hospitals coronavirus resource page for more information about the outbreak.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at eomalley@essentialhospitals.org or 202.585.0127 with questions.

 

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About the Author

Abigail Painchaud is a policy associate at America's Essential Hospitals.

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