News & Commentary

June 1, 2020

Randon Herrera

Randon Herrera is a student at Harvard Law School.

As schools begin to adjourn for the summer, millions of people may lose eligibility for paid family leave programs created in response to the pandemic, Bloomberg reports. Under federal programs like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), 61 million parents whose children’s schools closed due to the pandemic were eligible for 10 weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds their regular pay. However, the Department of Labor recently clarified that eligibility terminates as soon as schools wrap up their classes and summer break begins. On the flip side, DOL also stated that parents whose children are signed up for summer programs that are now closed can still be eligible for leave.

Many owners of “nonessential” businesses have taken to running their businesses in secret, in violation of state and local orders, Politico reports. In Los Angeles alone, over 1000 complaints have been filed against nonessential businesses for operating in opposition to state orders. From nail salons to dog groomers, many small business owners are willing to take the risk of legal repercussions as they face potentially irreparable financial harm if they continue to remain closed. Many have even implemented their own social distancing protocols in the operation of their business, such as one martial arts instructor who has been instructing his students in his backyard and driveway. As states like California begin allowing nonessential businesses to operate, the desire to skirt the law to maintain one’s business and livelihood will hopefully vanish.

Healthcare workers in the US on H-1B visas begin to face the prospect of deportation despite of, and potentially because of, their work on the front lines of the fight against the virus. According to a story by the Wall Street Journal, the families of two Indian doctors may soon have to fight for their legal status after the doctors died of Covid-19. The doctors were in the US on H-1B visas, and their families by extension. For the more than 15,000 physicians in the US on temporary H-1B visas, threats like this are becoming more and more real. Not only are the families at risk, but the visa holders themselves also face losing their legal status. For instance, if a doctor experiences a long-term disability from a Covid-19 infection, or is furloughed for any reason, they may be removed from their hospital’s payroll. Visa rules would require them to find new employment within 60 days or leave the US. It’s clear that immigrant healthcare workers fighting to save lives and stop the spread of the virus in the US deserve better. What is unclear is whether US Citizenship and Immigration Services will be responsive to these issues.

A lawsuit filed by New York nurses against the state health department for failing to adequately protect nurses and other healthcare workers was dismissed by the New York Supreme Court for being beyond judicial review. The lawsuit claimed that the state has failed to provide nurses at the front lines of the fight against coronavirus with adequate PPE, that nurses have not been given proper training, and that the state has not provided adequately safe working conditions for high-risk nurses, such as pregnant nurses. The union representing the nurses has yet to state whether it will seek appeal.

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