Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in March, 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Soon afterward, Congress also passed the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA). As the name suggests, the EPSLA allowed employees to take time off from work to quarantine due a possible covid19 infection. The leave requirements portion of the statute expired in December, 2020. But, prior to that expiration, Enny Alvarado was working for The Valcap Group, LLC. In November, 2020, a co-worker tested positive for the covid19. Alvarado had been working closely with that co-worker. Ms. Alvarado called her doctor, who told her she should take a covid19 test and quarantine until she received the results. Valcap had no policies then in place for the pandemic. Ms. Alvarado asked for and received medical leave to quarantine at home. Later that same day, the company fired her. Her employer said anyone who takes covid19 leave would be fired.
Ms. Alvarado sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, alleging “regarded as” discrimination and under the EPSLA. Valcap moved to dismiss saying the EPSLA did not have a provision similar to the Family Medical Leave Act stating that an employer may not “interfere” with a worker’s right under the statute. The court agreed with the Defendant. But, it noted that to the extent Alvarado claims in her suit that Valcap disciplined or discharged her for pursuing her rights under the EPSLA, she may indeed maintain such a suit. The EPSLA does in fact provide that an employer may not discipline or discharge an employee for seeking her rights under the statute.
The employer also argued that because Ms. Alvarado did not take her leave, she could not allege she was fired for taking that leave. She had simply requested it. The court rejected this argument, saying that requesting leave amounted to taking leave under the EPSLA. And, at least on this blog, this employer gets an “F” for making a silly argument. The only reason she did not actually take her leave was because she was fired before she could take that same leave – which had already been approved by the employer.
The court granted the motion to dismiss regarding the worker’s ADA claim. It found that at most, she had pleaded that she was fired for seeking to quarantine, not because her employer perceived her as having an impairment.
See the decision in Alvarado v. The Valcap Group, LLC, No. 21-CV-1830 (N.D. Tex. 1/30/2022) here.