- On April 1, 2020
By: Paula E. Pitrak
With the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) in effect, the Department of Labor (“DOL”), Railroad Retirement Board (“RRB”), and Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) continue to offer additional guidance on paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, railroad unemployment and sickness benefits, and Part 219 drug and alcohol testing.
Department of Labor
The DOL continues to update its Coronavirus Resources page with guidance on workplace safety; wages, hours and leave; and unemployment insurance flexibilities. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD)’s COVID-19 and the American Workplace page sets forth fact sheets, comprehensive Q&As, posters (available in Spanish and English), and Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-1 regarding the temporary non-enforcement period applicable to the FFCRA.
The WHD’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers provides answers to fifty-nine common questions regarding paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. The Q&A offers guidance on intermittent leave, concurrent use of leave, calculating paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, interplay between paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave, important distinctions between the two types of leave, recording requirements, amount of leave employers are permitted to claim as a tax credit, and use of employer’s preexisting leave entitlements.
Railroad Retirement Board
In response to the CARES Act, the Railroad Retirement Board published News Release “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.” This Release explains how the CARES Act boosts unemployment and sickness benefits for railroad workers impacted by the pandemic by temporarily eliminated the 1-week waiting period required before railroad workers can receive unemployment or sickness benefits, increasing the amount of the unemployment benefit available, extending unemployment benefits to rail workers who received unemployment benefits from July 1, 2019 to July 30, 2020, and explaining the RRB will also pay sickness benefits and, in some cases, unemployment benefits, to rail workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been subject to a quarantine order.
The RRB also addresses questions regarding those situations in which benefits are payable during the COVID-19 outbreak in its Q&A: Unemployment and Sickness Benefit Flexibilities Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) during the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak.
Federal Railroad Administration
On March 30, 2020, the FRA replied to the joint request of the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, and the American Public Transportation Association for temporary emergency waiver relief from certain FRA alcohol and drug testing requirements at 49 C.F.R. Part 219 (Part 219) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In short, the FRA will not look favorably on a railroad’s blanket suspension of Part 219 random testing during the pandemic. Rather, the FRA will be looking for compliance with annual percentage requirements. While performing audits, the FRA will exercise reasonableness when determining whether testing was not done for legitimate reasons. Railroads must use common sense when determining testing refusals or excusals and must document everything to provide sufficient explanation for their testing audits.
For more information regarding your company’s compliance with the FFCRA, the CARES Act, and other applicable federal, state, and local employment laws regarding COVID-19, contact Fletcher & Sippel’s Labor and Employment Group.