- A single mother working as director of revenue management at Eastern Airlines claimed the company terminated her because she asked for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act (FFCRA) (Jones v. Eastern Airlines, No. 2:20-cv-01927 (E.D. Pa. April 16, 2020)).
- The company asked the court to dismiss the complaint June 19, arguing that the worker's allegations occurred before the FFCRA took effect. Eastern Airlines terminated the plaintiff, Stephanie Jones, March 27, and the FFCRA became effective April 2, the airline said, several weeks after President Donald Trump signed it into law March 18.
- "Pre-April 2, 2020 conduct is simply not actionable under the FFCRA," the airline said. Congress did not specify that the act would apply retroactively, it argued, and courts have ruled unanimously against the retroactive application of federal employment laws including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The FFCRA generally requires that employers with fewer than 500 workers provide two kinds of emergency paid leave to workers affected by the pandemic. Specifically, it expanded the FMLA to offer paid leave to workers who need time off to care for a child whose school or childcare provider closed due to COVID-19.
Jones claimed she repeatedly asked to discuss her schedule and workload after her 11-year-old son's school closed because of the pandemic. Before she requested FFCRA leave specifically, she asked for two hours of flex time and "the continued ability to work from home" to ease her childcare responsibilities. This request went unanswered, Jones said. When she requested leave, a human resource representative's response "showed open hostility." Jones was terminated three days later.
School and daycare closures created difficult situations for many working parents this spring. Some companies responded by expanding their leave policies. Microsoft, for example, granted employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave to deal with extended school closures. The benefit applied to all global employees, both hourly and salaried.
The novel coronavirus highlighted caregiving's inherent issues, but it may not have been able to erase the political divisions that have thwarted a legislative solution for some time. Despite bipartisan consensus that the lack of a national paid family leave mandate is a problem, each proposal faces challenges.