U.S. Department of Labor Launches the Essential Workers, Essential Protections Initiative During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 6, 2021
On April 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“DOL”) announced the Essential Workers, Essential Protections initiative (the “Initiative”) to provide workers who have been deemed “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic additional information about applicable wage and hour laws that protect them and resources for contacting the DOL. Specifically, the Initiative is designed to educate workers on the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). 
As part of the Initiative, the DOL launched an Essential Protections During the COVID-19 Pandemic website that provides links to resources on issues employers and employees may face during the COVID-19 pandemic, including on topics such as “Questions about your pay,” “Questions about break time for nursing mothers,” and “Questions about time off from work if you or a family member are sick.” The DOL will also be hosting a series of webinars nationwide to educate worker advocates, employers, and other stakeholders answering questions that have arisen during the pandemic.
The Initiative also provides updated Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) pages related to the FLSA and the FMLA. Although the DOL has posted FAQs for much of the COVID-19 pandemic, the updated FAQs combine existing articles the DOL has published and provide further guidance about pandemic-related scenarios. The FAQs also now address topics such as time spent on temperature checks, health screenings, and COVID-19 testing. The DOL confirmed that the time spent waiting for and undergoing such activities is compensable when it occurs during the workday. When such activities are required before the start of the workday or during a day off, the time may be compensable if it is necessary for the employee to perform his or her job.
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The Coronavirus situation is fluid, and laws are changing rapidly. Our recent memoranda and other information discussing various aspects of Coronavirus can be found here.

DOL Wages and Overtime