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COVID-19 Legislation Creates New Causes of Action Against Employers for Firing Employees

| Apr 23, 2020 | Uncategorized |

As businesses navigate the COVID-19 crisis, the law is constantly evolving. Employers are tasked with learning the emergency legislation being passed at all levels of government. Failure to comply with the recently enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), can result in a lawsuit for wrongful termination, as well as administrative penalties.

Lawsuits For Violations Of The FFCRA

As discussed in here, the FFCRA provides benefits to eligible employees, including paid sick leave. Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating (i.e. firing, demoting, etc.) against an employee for taking paid sick leave pursuant to FFCRA. If an employer violates the paid sick leave provisions of the FFCRA, an aggrieved employee may file suit to recover the lost wages and an equal amount as liquidated damages. If the employee brings a private civil action to recover actual and liquidated damages and prevails, her or she may also recover their litigation costs and attorneys’ fees.

Administrative Complaints For Violations Of The FFCRA

While the FFCRA applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees, a lawsuit against an employer is only available if the employer has 50 or more employees. If the employer has fewer than 50 employees, the employee will need to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Labor (“DOL”) to assert his or her rights.

The DOL has authority to pursue relief on behalf of any employee who is eligible under the FFCRA. In addition to lost wages and liquidated damages, the DOL may seek civil penalties for the violation and job reinstatement for the employee. If the employer is found to have willfully violated the FFCRA, it could be subject to criminal penalties.

Potential For Personal Liability Of Managers And Supervisors For Violations Of The FFCRA

The FFCRA adopted the enforcement mechanisms of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). The FMLA and the FLSA broadly construe “employer” to include “any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer.” For this reason, managers and supervisors may be held individually liable for a business’s violation of the FFCRA.

If you are an employer with questions regarding compliance with the FFCRA, or if you are an employee who believes you have been wrongfully discharged or retaliated against for exercising your rights, the attorneys at Skelton Slusher Barnhill Watkins Wells, PLLC are ready to help. Please contact us at (936) 632-2300 so that an attorney can provide situation-specific guidance in handling your employment law matters.