What Do You Think: Did Employer Violate FFCRA by Denying Employee Paid Leave to Quarantine?

24 Jan, 2022 Frank Ferreri


Chicago, IL (WorkersCompensation.com) -- Taking paid time off for COVID-19-related reasons was par for the course for much of 2020, but how much information did employees need to provide to get that time?

That question recently came up in an Illinois case.

A selector for a glass manufacturer began experiencing symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, including chills, fever, dehydration, debilitation headaches, difficulty breathing, and loss of her senses of smell and taste. Her symptoms lasted about three months, affecting her ability to breathe, talk, sleep, and walk.

After testing positive for COVID-19, the selector self-quarantined for two weeks, documentation about which her sister delivered to the manufacturer. Later, the selector provided the manufacturer with documentation that she was approved to return to work, but the manufacturer sought additional information. Although the selector and her doctor made multiple attempts to send additional documents, the manufacturer failed to respond. The manufacturer then terminated the selector.

The selector sued, claiming that the manufacturer violated the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by failing to provide her with paid sick leave. One division of the FFCRA, called the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, was in effect from April through December 2020. Under the EPSLA, employers were required to provide paid sick time to employees who were unable to work due to a need for leave in certain circumstances, including having been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.”

Before taking leave under the EPSLA, employees were required to provide employers with: the employee’s name, dates for which leave was required, the qualifying reason for leave, an oral or written statement that the employee was unable to work, and the name of the health care provider who advised the employee to self-quarantine.

Did the manufacturer violate the EPSLA when it terminated the selector?

A. Yes. The selector’s doctor advised her to self-quarantine due to COVID-19, and the manufacturer had documentation of the doctor’s orders.

B. No. The selector did not provide all the required information to the manufacturer so that she could take EPSLA leave.

If you chose A, you agreed with the court in Johnson v. Gerresheimer Glass Inc., No. 21-cv-4079 (N.D. Ill. 01/12/22), which determined that the manufacturer violated the FFCRA’s EPSLA provisions when it did not grant the selector paid leave following her doctor’s quarantine order.

Although it was unclear if the manufacturer submitted every piece of EPSLA-required information to the manufacturer, the court explained that this would not prevent the selector from go forward with her case.

“[The selector’s] allegation that she notified [the manufacturer] of her COVID-19 diagnosis and her doctor’s advice before she took leave is sufficient for now,” the court wrote. “[She] can disclose whether she provided any other information with this notice later.” 

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    About The Author

    • Frank Ferreri

      Frank Ferreri, M.A., J.D. covers workers' compensation legal issues. He has published books, articles, and other material on multiple areas of employment, insurance, and disability law. Frank received his master's degree from the University of South Florida and juris doctor from the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Frank encourages everyone to consider helping out the Kind Souls Foundation and Kids' Chance of America.

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