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Trump administration issues guidance scaling back paid leave requirement for small business employees

Trump administration issues guidance scaling back paid leave requirement for small business employees
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE’s administration has pulled back requirements for small businesses to administer paid leave to their employees in a guidance published Wednesday.

The Labor Department’s guidance for the coronavirus stimulus bill said companies with fewer than 50 workers have the option to decline 12 weeks of paid leave that the bill mandated for those whose children are home from school or child care.

Employees are granted two weeks of paid sick leave and 12 weeks of paid family leave under the law, which exempted employers from administering the paid family leave if it hindered business from functioning. 

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The law already does not apply to companies with more than 500 employees, meaning in total, more than 75 percent of American workers are employed at companies that can be exempt, The New York Times noted.

But the Department of Labor interpreted that small businesses could be exempt from providing the family leave if it would “cause the small business to cease operating,” if employee absence would pose “a substantial risk” to the business or if there were not enough employees “able, willing and qualified” to fill in for the individual on leave. 

Small businesses cannot deny sick leave. 

But health care providers, first responders and certain federal government employees could also be declined the family paid leave under the law.

Democrats expressed concern that the law did not provide the needed flexibility for workers during the pandemic. Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayPlaintiff and defendant from Obergefell v. Hodges unite to oppose Barrett's confirmation Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA MORE (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroCongress must repeal tax breaks for the wealthy passed in CARES Act Century of the Woman: The Fight for Equal Pay Female lawmakers, officials call for more women at all levels of government to improve equity MORE (D-Conn.) sent a letter to Labor Secretary Eugene ScaliaEugene ScaliaBusiness groups, universities file lawsuit over new rules targeting H-1B visas Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak Labor secretary's wife tests positive for COVID-19 MORE saying the guidelines “violate congressional intent” and ”contradict the plain language” of the law.

Scalia said in a statement Wednesday the law gave “unprecedented paid leave benefits to American workers affected by the virus, while ensuring that businesses are reimbursed.”

Paid leave was one of the most contentious aspects of the massive stimulus bill, as Democrats pushed for more leave for employees, delaying the Senate vote on the package.