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DOL Updates FAQs Regarding Paid Family Leave

The Department of Labor (DOL) has updated its COVID-19 leave Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Although entitled “Paid Family Leave,” they appear to apply to employees who are themselves infected or exposed to COVID-19 as well as those who are caring for an infected or exposed family member. Questions pertinent to health care workers specifically are pasted below:

I’m a health care worker and my employer has directed me not to work because it is suspected/confirmed that I have been exposed to COVID-19, I’m exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and/or I’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19. What benefits are available?

You are deemed to be subject to a mandatory order of quarantine or isolation from the Department of Health. Depending on your employer’s size you may be entitled to paid sick leave benefits and/or combined Paid Family Leave and disability COVID-19 quarantine leave benefits. You are not required to provide your employer with any additional documentation before receiving paid sick leave benefits. If applying for combined Paid Family Leave and disability COVID-19 quarantine leave benefits you should submit with your application a letter from your employer that includes the dates you’ve been told not to work as well as your job title.

I’m a health care worker who tested positive for COVID-19 and/or who is symptomatic. What benefits are available?

You must not report to work, and you are deemed to be subject to a mandatory order of quarantine or isolation from the Department of Health. Depending on your employer’s size you may be entitled to paid sick leave benefits and/or combined Paid Family Leave and disability COVID-19 quarantine benefits. To receive paid sick leave benefits you must submit to your employer documentation from a licensed medical provider that has treated you attesting that you have tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic. If applying for combined Paid Family Leave and disability COVID-19 quarantine leave benefits you should submit the attestation with your application.

I’m a health care worker who was exposed to COVID-19 and my employer is requiring me to report to work. Is this allowed?

If your employer is experiencing a staffing shortage, they may require you to report to work if you are asymptomatic, have not tested positive, and your contacts with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 are limited to other asymptomatic individuals.

I’m a health care worker who tested positive for COVID-19 or is symptomatic and my employer is requiring me to report to work before my 14-day quarantine period is over. Is this allowed?

If your employer is experiencing a staffing shortage they may require you to report to work if you maintained isolation for at least seven days after onset of symptoms, are fever-free for at least 72 hours without using fever-reducing medications, and have other symptoms improving.

What qualifies as a “staffing shortage?”

The employer must show that there is a staffing shortage of the type of health care employee that the employer wishes to report to work, the shortage would adversely impact the employer’s ability to safely provide health care services, and the shortage cannot be addressed by other means.

Contact: Diane Darbyshire, ddarbyshire@leadingageny.org, or Karen Lipson, klipson@leadingageny.org. Both can be reached at 518-867-8383.