Federal employees can challenge denials of requests for a special sick leave benefit created by one of the Coronavirus relief laws under the procedures used for asserting that they have been improperly denied overtime pay, OPM has said.
The guidance is the latest in a series regarding a provision called the “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act,” or EPSLA, in the “Families First” relief law. The Labor Department administers that program in general but OPM is involved as it pertains to the federal workforce.
OPM previously had told agencies that they “must provide” the leave—which is over and above normal sick leave entitlements–to federal employees who qualify under that law. Qualifying conditions include situations in which an employee has been quarantined due to the virus, is caring for such a person, or is caring for a child due to a virus-related closing of a school or day care center. Amounts payable vary according to the conditions cited and generally are limited to 80 hours; U.S. Postal Service employees and certain other employees are eligible for more.
Despite that guidance, many employees have said their requests for the leave were denied or disappeared into an administrative void.
OPM’s latest guidance says the law “provides that employers (such as federal agencies) who violate the EPSLA paid sick leave provisions shall be considered to have failed to pay minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
OPM adjudicates FLSA minimum wage and overtime claims for most federal employees, it added, the main exceptions being employees of the Postal Service, the Postal Regulatory Commission, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Also, certain executive branch employees may not be covered by the FLSA based on a special agency personnel authority.
OPM said that it and the Labor Department “have determined that federal employees covered by OPM’s FLSA regulations would file any EPSLA paid sick leave claims with their employing agency or with OPM in accordance with the claim filing requirements in 5 CFR part 551, subpart G. As with other FLSA claims covered under that subpart, employees who want to file EPSLA paid sick leave claims are not required to obtain a final agency decision before filing with OPM.”
Detailed information on OPM’s FLSA claims filing procedures is at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/claim-decisions/fair-labor-standards-act/#url=Overview