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Thanks to Will Atchison at LRIS for providing this timely information. As we stated previously, the COVID-19 response remains fluid. We will continue to update you as additional information becomes available.

Early last week we posted the latest information available regarding enhanced leave benefits included in legislation passed by Congress that is effective April 1st. Since that time, as described below, US Secretary of Labor Scalia has exempted emergency responders - including police officers, corrections and 911 telecommunications personnel - from these much needed benefits. 

Eugene Scalia was appointed Secretary of Labor by Donald Trump in July of 2019. He is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonio Scalia an unabashed anti-union jurist. Despite great claims of supporting law enforcement and first responders, the Secretary of Labor’s determination puts public safety employees AND OUR FAMILIES at the back of the benefits line. Adding further insult to injury this occurs at a time when we are at greater risk than those who are now entitled to these benefits. 

We believe this exemption is beyond unfair. It is also nonsensical.


LRIS (Labor Relations Information System) Summary of Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA)

The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act created both paid sick leave and a form of emergency FMLA leave to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Congress allowed the Department of Labor or individual employers to exempt "emergency responders" from coverage.

Because Congress did not define the term, questions immediately arose as to who an "emergency responder" is who won't receive the benefits of the FFCRA. In a move that should surprise no one, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia has issued a Guidance that gives the broadest scope possible to the exemption and the least coverage possible to public safety employees.

You'll need to scroll down to Question 57. You'll see that Secretary Scalia believes that "emergency responders" include "military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, [and] 911 operators. . ."

Yes, you read that correctly. Dispatchers are "responders" as are corrections officers. 

What's galling about this is that public safety employees will need the time off as much any other type of employee (except health care workers, who are also exempt). If a public safety employee comes down with COVID-19, they won't be coming to work. However, unlike pretty much every other type of employee, they'll have to use their own sick time and vacation to account for their leave rather than get the paid sick leave under the FFCRA. Unless their employer doesn't take advantage of the exemption, that is.

And how is this right?

- Will Aitchison, LRIS

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