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  • PTs, PTAs Could Be 'Exempted' From Receiving Additional COVID-19 Leave

    A final rule from the Department of Labor includes PTs and PTAs among the health care providers whose employers — depending on the setting — could opt to deny expanded sick and FMLA leave.

    In this review: U.S. Department of Labor, Temporary Rule: Paid Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
    Fact sheet: employee paid leave rights
    Fact sheet: employer paid leave requirements
    Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers

    Emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions will be implemented broadly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but PTs, PTAs, and other health care providers employed in certain settings can be prevented from receiving the additional relief if their employers say so: That's how the U.S. Department of Labor has laid out its plans for implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law on March 18. The exemption provisions could also be applied to first responders.

    At issue is a requirement in the Families First Act that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and additional FMLA leave related to COVID-19—and in particular, instances in which an employer would have the option to exempt employees from the extra leave provisions. In health care, DOL is allowing that option to be exercised by employers from a list of health care settings, to be applied on a case-by-case basis to any of their health care providers.

    For the physical therapy profession, the term "health care provider" is key, because PTs and PTAs fall into that category for purposes of the rule.

    The rule provides the exemption option to employers in the following settings:

    • Doctor’s office.
    • Hospital.
    • Health care center.
    • Clinic.
    • Post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction.
    • Medical school.
    • Local health department or agency.
    • Nursing facility.
    • Retirement facility.
    • Nursing home.
    • Home health care provider.
    • Facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or "any similar institution."

    The list applies to any permanent or temporary institution, and extends to any listed setting that contracts with a health care provider or contracts with an entity that employs a health care provider. Bottom line: PTs and PTAs employed or under contract with a facility on the list could face the possibility of being exempted from receiving the additional leave.

    It's Optional and Intended for Case-by-Case Use
    According to the DOL, the agency is encouraging employers to be "judicious" in use of the exemption "to minimize the spread of the virus associated with COVID-19." Additionally, DOL says that the exemptions are intended to be used on a "case-by-case" basis, meaning that employers could apply the exemptions to certain types of health care providers and allow others to receive the extended benefits.

    It's Not the Only Exemption Path
    The requirements to provide the extended leave don't apply to business with 500 or more employees, and employers with 50 or fewer employees can apply to opt out if providing the extra leave would jeopardize the viability of the business.

    The "Health Care Provider" Definition is Intentionally Broad
    In the rule DOL states that it considered using a more narrow definition of "health care provider," but decided to go with the broad definition to give employers flexibility to maintain staffing to respond to the health emergency. According to DOL, a more narrow definition could leave health care facilities without staff to perform critical services needed to battle COVID-19.

    Comments

    • I work in Skilled Nursing. I am shocked that I could be exempted from leave if I end up needing it. PTs and PTAs are essential. We are the ones helping these patients get home and making room for the next people who need short term skilled rehab. The nursing staff is overwhelmed and if we don't get these people up and moving, they're not going home. If that's not essential I don't know what is. I hope APTA and all state associations are working to reverse this rule. Michelle Slaughter DPT, GCS

      Posted by Michelle Slaughter on 4/3/2020 5:32 PM

    • To whom it concerns, This is very hard and frustrating to hear. We need to advocate for this to be reconsidered as especially in outpatient practices, many will be impacted.

      Posted by Katherine Severinghaus on 4/4/2020 12:50 AM

    • I have maintained a very positive outlook through this entire situation, but this just sickens me. I am a PTA/DOR in a SNF. I am extremely grateful that I still have a job. I am extremely grateful for my staff and coworkers, however we live in fear and uncertainty every day. We should receive some type of benefit for risking our lives and the health risks we impose on our families.

      Posted by Tani Jankaitis on 4/4/2020 10:15 AM

    • I’m working in a nursing home and we have around 8-9 ppl tested positive and the nursing department pushing very hard to pick patients tested positive. Please let me know what is the the criteria to pick / treat a patient has Covid 19 .specially the ones still running fever above 100 F. Please advice .

      Posted by Yasser El kalla on 4/4/2020 7:19 PM

    • It seems ridiculous that those on the Frontline cannot be looked after if needed. And then we have half our profession being furloughed and laid -off.

      Posted by Jean Johnson on 4/4/2020 9:24 PM

    • @Yasser: Please refer to CDC guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/index.html and APTA guidance: http://www.apta.org/PatientCare/COVID-19/PatientManagementAdult/

      Posted by APTA staff on 4/6/2020 8:57 AM

    • This is rediculous. We are considered essential and are out on the front lines, and I'm taking every precaution that I can with the limited PPE's available, and then denied any sick leave should we become infected and suffer possible severe illness? That garbage needs to change yesterday.

      Posted by Jeffrey Hamilton on 4/6/2020 8:58 AM

    • Hi, I'm not a physical therapist, but am a BDR for a health company that markets to PT/OT/STs and I'm already sick of it. It's hard enough talking to people regarding their hospitals HIS and how it's not made with rehab therapy in mind. Let alone, having to call in during this time per my companies contract. I believe in the software I market, it truly does bring rehab specific documentation, auto-coding, and reporting to the forefront for therapists. I believe in it, and I believe in the therapists I speak with; I'm a little to "empathetic" to be a good salesperson or marketer. This makes me despise calling in more. Take care of your therapists, fight for them. Give them what they deserve. Every call I make, which I've booked demonstrations or not with directors/managers during this time, I thank them for everything they're doing. Do you know how many times I hear a sigh of gratitude and the sweetest "thank you" you could imagine? Practically every time. As an BDR, I can call someone out of the blue and say thank you and get treated with kindness, yet, honestly, I fail to recognize a similar effort given on their behalf. Many will move to critical care areas or wherever if it gets bad enough for their hospital area. To PTs: Thank you for everything you do, and that your hospital does. You are doing far more than anyone truly knows. From that annoying BDR that may call into your hospital, I am a person, and I care about you, and I thank you.

      Posted by Joshua on 4/6/2020 11:13 AM

    • NO physical, occupational, speech, or other therapists should be exempted from getting this pay!!! EVERYONE OF THESE THERAPISTS ARE ESSENTIAL!!!! If your family required their services you would feel differently. I have 3 foster children that NEED these people. My children would NOT be doing as well as they are without them. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!

      Posted by Sheryl on 4/6/2020 2:18 PM

    • This is very disheartening. There have been very huge changes in our field and not or the better.

      Posted by Laura on 4/6/2020 4:39 PM

    • As a Therapist in the outpatient world of PT for sports and orthopedic rehab, it is absolutely ridiculous. Only today after weeks of working in an environment where the patients themselves limited their contact with us, were we provided with masks and other PPE. Several therapists have asked to work primarily through TELEHEALTH services until further notice and the company had the nerve to tell them no! Where is the ability to decide what is right for our patients and our own health and safety. We are an essential non essential, most can function at home with the use of HEPs provided by us. I see us as a luxury at this point.

      Posted by Deanna Fiore PT, DPT on 4/6/2020 10:21 PM

    • Complete and utter failure

      Posted by Steven W Holland on 4/7/2020 10:08 AM

    • I work as a PTA in a SNF in NYC. So many of us are out at risk, wearing the same masks and PPE all day. The patients are coming from the hospital sick and we are caring for them. If I get sick from contaminated PPE, I’m exempted from leave. This is ridiculous. Thank you again APTA for looking out for us. You make it a joy to be in this field. I’m tired of putting my back and health on the line for a profession that seems to no longer care about or support us.

      Posted by Kelly Blackman on 4/7/2020 5:24 PM

    • I hope if we are considered essential that the lobbyists and APTA is at least ALL OVER THIS on behalf of all the PTs since we seem to be conveniently essential when it only comes being left out. Protect our workers on the front line, make sure we are considered for hazard pay. https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/491547-senate-democrats-propose-25000-hazard-pay-plan-for-essential-workers

      Posted by Brad on 4/7/2020 7:37 PM

    • The potential exemption is solely tied to the expanded component of the FMLA. Individuals that qualify for the eligibility and use of [traditional] FMLA (pre-expanded FMLA) would still be eligible and protected under the FMLA.

      Posted by Christopher Bailey, MBA, SPHR on 4/7/2020 8:01 PM

    • Here are the important takeaways from the article above: 1 - PTs and PTAs employed or under contract with the entities listed in the article are likely to be considered "health care providers" and their employers could have the ability to exempt them from *expanded* paid sick leave and paid FMLA leave under FFCRA. 2 - The rule does not otherwise apply for purposes of the FMLA or section 5102(A)(2) of the EPSLA, meaning that employees may still be eligible for traditional unpaid FMLA leave or paid leave provided under other laws. 3 - This exemption is *optional* for employers and should be evaluated by employers on a case-by-case basis. Employers are supposed to be judicious when using this definition to exempt health care providers from the provisions of the FFCRA (so if a PT or PTA gets sick for one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA, the employer should consider not making them ineligible so they can receive the expanded paid sick and FMLA leave). 4 – The definition of "health care provider" is for purposes of this exemption provision only, and is purposefully broad-- according to DOL a more narrow definition could leave health care facilities without staff to perform critical services needed to battle COVID-19.

      Posted by APTA staff on 4/8/2020 6:45 AM

    • This is sickening to think as a PT in Homehealth and providing treatment to our patients in their own home, in full PPE and the headaches from the N95’s. While we are risking our health and our overall daily wellbeing to care for sick elderly frail people. I hope the Apta recognizes this fact! But I bet the apta workers fall under essential to the infrastructure of the physical therapy!!!!

      Posted by John on 4/11/2020 3:07 PM

    • Makes absolutely NO sense. We are just as important to the sick than the doctos, nurses, OT, Cota, first respondes, etc. If we were not there the the patients who is getting them up for exercising. Look at the video of Chris Cuomo. He experiencd Civid 19 himself and his friend who is a polmonologist also said " it's gonna hurt but you need to get up the disease want to get in your lungs and want you to lye in bed, get up take those deep breaths, walk get those lungs to expand". Nursing doesn't have the time during this crisis. Use ALL your resources use all rehab staff as a TEAM to help save lives. Over turn this nonsense, and allow ALL medical staff EQUAL!

      Posted by Pamela Soucy-Berg on 4/15/2020 9:57 AM

    • I’m an RN in a long term care facility toward the end of March I had a ups case of flu, thank god I tested negative on april 1 st, I went back to work as soon as my swab result from DOH called in to measure being negative, I was anxious because I do have any sick time to cover my absences, from those sick days I was not paid for a week, after working for almost 3 weeks now, last weekend I developed high grade fever, dry cough, chills, runny nose, and a very bad body aches and malaise, so far I’m absent for 3 days now I’m more worried now because I think I was exposed to one of my resident who tested positive for CoVid 19. To our law makers and government representatives, you give us full blown praises, parades and all sorts of appreciation as first responders, but one thing you’ve overlooked, we are human too, we get sick and as you’ve witnesses already many of our colleagues life were sacrificed, we only have 1 life and we too want to live it to the fullest, we may have the biggest heart but we are scared to death, we want to save others so please save us as well. Just a few words to ponder, please try to reconsider, we pay are taxes we deserve to benefit from it.

      Posted by Glear on 4/21/2020 12:16 PM

    • I am approaching the end of my 12 week maternity leave. I work in the hospital setting. I'm was offered to work out of the SNF setting but due to low census, that is no longer an option for me. I'm so scared of bringing something home to my new baby. How can I go home and feel safe breastfeeding and snuggling my infant when I'm risking exposure. I don't know what to do.

      Posted by S on 4/24/2020 12:26 PM

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