When the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect, it provided an essential lifeline for employees affected by the pandemic. FFCRA provisions regarding mandatory sick leave for qualifying team members bound employers to offer paid time off. Someone as essential as a medical office manager could take two weeks of paid leave even if the office needed them.
It’s easy to see how this could cause a burden to healthcare employers. This makes it easy to understand why some were excited when this rule became voluntary. What some don't realize is that this doesn’t negate FFCRA provisions from 2020. If you failed to follow the rules precisely when the law was in effect, there could still be consequences on the horizon.
The Cost of FFCRA Provision Noncompliance
FFCRA violations resulted in massive costs for employers across the country. Of course, most healthcare employers are more concerned about individual costs. After all, a medical office that only employs a doctor, receptionist, and physician assistant could meet financial ruin over an accidental regulatory violation.
Employers who violated the FFCRA in 2020 could face consequences under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Unfortunately, this can equate to more than just offering back pay. The following consequences are also possible:
- Damages equal to double the wages owed.
- Reinstatement of any unlawfully terminated employee.
- Injunctive relief.
- Attorneys' fees and expenses.
- Interest during both pre- and post-judgment periods.
The one silver lining for healthcare employers is that some of their employees may have been exempt from the law. If sending home your surgical assistant would have adversely affected patient care, for instance, the assistant likely falls into the healthcare provider exemption.
Contact us today at HR for Health to better understand if you qualify for this exemption.
Total Costs of FFCRA Provision Violations
If you’re concerned that your medical practice may have violated the FFCRA in 2020, it’s important to realize that you’re not alone. By the middle of March 2021, employers paid nearly $4 million out related to FFCRA violations. These costs reimbursed over 3,500 employees who were part of more than 4,200 investigations.
The government gave employers a one-month grace period when the FFCRA went into effect. During this non-enforcement period, the Department of Labor (DOL) simply provided warnings to those who violated the law’s requirements. If they remedied the issues raised by the DOL, the agency undertook no further enforcement measures.
Of course, we’re now far outside of that one-month window. If you refused to grant a nonessential medical office clerk paid time off — or even worse, fired them for covered reasons — they could still file a complaint with the Department of Labor. And while FFCRA provisions are no longer mandatory, it’s still ideal to follow best practices if you choose to do so.
Moving Past FFCRA Provisions
Employers in the medical field had more leniency than most when the FFCRA went into effect. The exemptions they received under the law, however, were not absolute. If certain employees were eligible to receive paid leave and didn’t, healthcare employers may still face expensive compliance issues. It’s best to remedy the situation before the government gets involved.
Schedule an HR Consultation with HR for Health today if you’re concerned you may have overlooked FFCRA provisions. We’ll help you understand your next steps.
Did you know that we at HR for Health monitor all the specific laws and regulations that affect your practice? If you have questions about compliance issues, please reach out to us. Schedule a call, call (877) 779-4747, or email firstname.lastname@example.org now to learn more.
HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices.
Quick note: This is not to be taken as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws change over time and can vary by location and industry, consult a lawyer or HR expert for specific guidance. Learn about HR for Health's HR services.