Sickened by COVID-19, low-wage employees lose tasks. Others are rejected paid leave.

Sickened by COVID-19, low-wage employees lose tasks. Others are rejected paid leave.

The complete variation of this article was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity, a not-for-profit newsroom based in Washington, D.C.

Lucie Joseph started to feel sick on April 28 as she rang up consumers at a Shell filling station in Delray Beach, Florida.

Joseph stated her boss would not give her time off without a physician’s note. But the owner of the gas station, Sun Gas Marketing and Petroleum, didn’t use her medical insurance, so she didn’t go to the doctor. Joseph, a single mom with a 10- year-old kid, kept working– 7 more shifts over 10 days.

Joseph’s symptoms got worse, so she chose to get tested for COVID-19 On May 9, Joseph discovered she had actually checked favorable, and a nurse informed her to quarantine. Over the next six weeks, Joseph evaluated positive twice more and texted the results to a manager. As advised, she didn’t go back to work up until she had two successive unfavorable tests. On June 15, nevertheless, she was fired.

” I was stunned,” said Joseph, who showed the Center for Public Stability pictures of the text with her company and a document suggesting she ‘d tested favorable for COVID-19

Joseph, who made $13 an hour, didn’t understand she had a legal right to task protection.

Lucie Joseph with her 7-year-old kid. Joseph said she was fired at a gasoline station in South Florida when she required time off to recuperate from COVID-19 Courtesy Lucie Joseph

2 months before she was fired, President Donald Trump signed the Households First Coronavirus Action Act, which needs specific little and medium-sized services to pay a worker’s full salary for two weeks if they end up being contaminated with COVID-19 and restricts services from firing workers for taking leave.

However Joseph, who was eventually paid two weeks’ incomes, didn’t learn about the law up until she sought advice from a lawyer. Numerous other employees are similarly uninformed

Sun Gas owner Richard Vogel did not react to ask for comment.

Meanwhile, hundreds of U.S. companies have been cited for illegally denying paid leave to workers during the pandemic, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. As of June 12, nearly 700 companies had breached the law’s paid-leave provisions and owed back earnings to hundreds of workers, according to Labor Department records. Violators consist of 6 McDonald’s franchises and the franchise owners of a Comfort Suites, Yard by Marriott and Red Roofing System Inn.

In all, the businesses owe $690,000 in unsettled earnings to 527 employees, who are not determined in the files. Most of the workers are low-wage earners in the construction, hotel and food markets. It’s most likely much more companies have actually broken the law due to the fact that workers such as Joseph aren’t aware of their rights and for that reason haven’t submitted grievances.

” Workers with low salaries are most in requirement of paid leave,” stated Tanya Goldman, a former Labor Department policy consultant who’s now an attorney at the nonprofit Center for Law and Social Policy. “They actually can not pay for to stay at home and take a sick day if they get COVID.”

Red Roof Inn’s business office said it was attempting to track down the staff member involved but didn’t provide additional comment. A representative for Choice Hotels, which owns the Comfort Suites brand, said the hotel is owned by a franchisee and did not talk about the violation.

Eileen Arslan, comptroller for the Courtyard by Marriott in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, which was pointed out for an offense, said hotel staff members were puzzled at first about who was covered under the new law. As soon as they spoke with the Labor Department, they paid the worker the wages owed, Arslan said.

Congress is thinking about another stimulus bill that would extend paid sick days to employees not covered under the existing law, such as healthcare employees, initially responders and employees at business with more than 500 workers. Establishments with less than 50 workers are exempt if they reveal paid leave would seriously injure their companies.

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But the costs is bound in the Senate as Republicans and Democrats combat about how much aid to offer employees.

‘ I require to consume’

About a third of U.S. workers do not receive paid time off from their companies. The majority of them work in low-wage jobs. Others, such as Joseph, get only one or two days of paid time off a year. Others get a bit more, such as Angely Rodriguez Lambert.

Angely Rodriguez Lambert with her granny and aunt at their house in Oakland, California. Courtesy Angely Rodriguez Lambert

Rodriguez, who works as a cashier at a McDonald’s dining establishment in Oakland, California, gets up to 5 sick days a year under state law. However that wasn’t enough to pay her bills while she recuperated from COVID-19

Rodriguez was among 11 employees at the McDonald’s in the East Bay neighborhood of Temescal who evaluated positive for the coronavirus in late May. Required to quarantine, Rodriguez asked if she could get paid while she recuperated in your home. Probably not, her boss stated, adding that she would consult her manager. Rodriguez said she never got a response.

Rodriguez, who earns $1414 an hour, didn’t recognize she can make money for 2 weeks throughout quarantine.

” Think of living here with no money,” Rodriguez stated in Spanish. “I can’t stay in my house if I don’t pay the rent, and I need to eat and send cash to my household.”

Rodriguez and 5 co-workers are taking legal action against the franchise owner, VES McDonald’s, for allegedly breaking local labor laws, including a temporary Oakland regulation that needs companies to give workers two paid weeks off if they get sick throughout the pandemic.

Rodriguez stated she became spent for 60 hours but is owed another20 The business stated it ultimately paid all employees in mid-June who asked for leave, according to court records.

Rodriguez’s company, McDonald’s franchise owner Valerie Smith, did not respond to a request for comment. In court files, her legal representatives stated the franchise has actually adhered to the law.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s Corp. said the company asks workers who are sick to stay at home.

” We’re positive the huge bulk of dining establishment workers impacted by COVID-19 are making money sick leave through existing franchisee and business policies, the Households First Coronavirus Action Act, CARES Act and state and local guidelines, and McDonald’s USA requires its franchisees to abide by all applicable laws and regulations,” the spokesperson wrote.

Angely Rodriguez Lambert, center, strikes with her co-workers at a McDonald’s dining establishment in Oakland, California. The group was demanding 2 weeks of paid quarantine for sick workers and individual protective devices for those who continued on the job. Courtesy Fight for $15

Rodriguez and Joseph are the types of workers the Households First law was expected to assist: low-income earners who aren’t paid if they are ill or don’t get enough paid leave to quarantine for a minimum of two weeks.

The law also ensures working parents 10 weeks off at two-thirds pay if an employee’s childcare company closes since of the pandemic. Companies get a tax credit to cover the expense.

Data from the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which enforces the paid-leave law, shows that businesses with a large number of low-wage workers are breaking the law regularly than others.

Most of the lawbreakers are building and renovation business, hotels, dining establishments, supermarket and manufacturers.

The U.S. Postal Service has the most infractions:57 It owes employees almost $100,000, Labor Department records show.

Sandra Capkovic, who provides mail in the Tampa, Florida, area, said a manager rejected her request for 10 weeks of paid leave to take care of her 7-year-old son, whose sitters have been not available throughout the pandemic. Capkovic stated her supervisor informed her the paid-leave law covers just parents whose children’s schools and day care facilities are closed, and she would need to use the 10 days of yearly leave she had accumulated.

The Families First law covers working moms and dads whose “child care company” is unavailable, however does not define whether that consists of babysitters.

Capkovic stated she didn’t submit a formal complaint due to the fact that she didn’t understand if her supervisor had actually violated the law.

A representative for the postal service stated the agency started educating employees about their rights as soon as the law was signed by the president.

” Considerably, the variety of violations pointed out (57) is a really little fraction of the Postal Service workforce, which is consisted of more than 630,000 employees,” she wrote.

2 former Labor Department officials said the 692 paid-leave records acquired by the Center for Public Stability likely reflect only a portion of companies who are breaking the law.

” It’s very tough for an employee, in a time of increasingly high unemployment and instability in the labor market, to have the courage to make a grievance,” stated Michael Hancock, an employment lawyer and an assistant administrator for policy in the Wage and Hour Division throughout the Obama administration.

Joseph, meanwhile, is now getting unemployment pay and trying to find work. She’s preparing to take legal action against Sun Gas, claiming it broke the paid-leave law.

” Employers require to understand that we’re human, that we have a family too,” she stated.

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The Center for Public Stability is a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative wire service in Washington, D.C.

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