New Labor Department definition of healthcare provider left many without paid sick leave, inspector general finds

The U.S. Labor Department's new definition of provider disqualified millions of healthcare workers for emergency paid sick leave benefits through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, according to a report from the department's Office of Inspector General. 

The coronavirus legislation provides eligible workers with paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19, but it excludes those who work for  private employers with 500 or more employees and some healthcare and emergency response workers.

A temporary rule later issued by the Labor Department added to the number of workers excluded from the coronavirus relief legislation. By changing the definition of healthcare worker, the Labor Department exempted several types of companies from qualifying for paid sick leave and left millions of healthcare providers without the benefit, the inspector general and Washington Post said.

The Labor Department's new definition of healthcare workers exempted those employed at physician's offices, clinics, testing facilities or hospitals as well as companies that contract with hospitals and clinics, the inspector general found.

The inspector general's report also suggested the Labor Department is not sufficiently enforcing the paid sick leave provisions or existing laws on pay and overtime, according to the Post.

The Labor Department acknowledged it has been conducting limited telephone-only reviews amid the pandemic, instead of fact-finding, on-site investigations, where all compliance issues are examined, the Post reported.

In response to the inspector general's findings, the Labor Department said it was "developing and sharing models for conducting virtual investigations," and vowed to maintain a backlog of delayed on-site investigations to be conducted when it is safer to do so, according to the Post.

A New York judge struck down the Labor Department's definition of provider this month, although it is unclear whether the ruling applies only to New York employers, the Post reported.

Read the full inspector general  report here. Read the full Post report here


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