Health Care Provider Definition
The FFCRA gives employers the option to deny leave requests from health care providers and emergency responders. The provision was intended to strike a balance between employees’ need for paid leave and the public interest in maintaining the country’s healthcare system during the pandemic. To that end, the Final Rule adopted an expansive definition of the term “health care provider,” which included “anyone employed at any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, . . . nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, . . . or any similar institution.” The definition also encompassed all employees of entities that contract with health care institutions or produce medical products.
The Court took issue with the DOL’s focus on the nature of the employer, rather than the specific duties performed by the employee. It noted that the definition could be applied to a range of employees that provide no healthcare services whatsoever, such as an English professor at a university that happens to have a medical school. This interpretation, according to the Court, was “vastly overbroad.” Now that the DOL’s definition has been vacated, the only remaining definition on which employers may rely can be found in the traditional FMLA regulations and is limited to “a doctor of medicine or osteopathy” authorized to practice in their state. Based on this ruling, a wide swath of employees that employers had previously excluded from FFCRA leave may now seek leave prospectively or retroactively. Employers should exercise caution and seek competent employment counsel in applying the exemption going forward.