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Tucson contractor agrees to pay disputed coronavirus sick leave

Tucson contractor agrees to pay disputed coronavirus sick leave

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

A Tucson-based electrical contractor has agreed to pay an employee two weeks’ sick leave pay required under the newly passed Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, after the worker was under orders to self-quarantine with potential COVID-19 symptoms.

Bear Creek Electrical will pay the employee $1,600 — full wages of $20 an hour for 80 hours of leave — after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, the agency said Thursday.

But the company should be able to fully recover its costs for the sick pay through federal tax credits.

Bear Creek failed to pay the employee, David Faudrin, for what qualified as paid sick leave covering the hours he spent at home, after the company received documentation of his doctor’s instructions to self-quarantine, the Labor Department said .

Barry Walker, owner of Bear Creek Electrical, said he will pay the sick leave, though he disputed the legitimacy of the employee’s claim.

Walker said Faudrin, a qualified electrician, had exhausted his regular paid sick leave and took two weeks off as COVID-19 leave and submitted a note from a doctor in Mexico City.

“I guess that’s legit in the U.S., but I don’t think it should be legit,” Walker said, contending that such documentation from foreign doctors could easily be fraudulent.

Under the law, employers are allowed to require an employee out sick because of COVID-19 to submit a doctor’s note to return to work.

Faudrin said he had not tested positive for COVID-19, but has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was advised by his doctor to self-quarantine.

Faudrin said he was born in Mexico City and has dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship, and he usually sees a doctor when visiting family in Mexico because it’s much cheaper there.

Bear Creek Electrical was not subject to any fine and under its agreement with the Labor Department, known as a conciliation. The company also agreed to comply going forward with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and went into effect on April 1, the Labor Department said.

“This case should serve as a signal to others that the U.S. Department of Labor is working to protect employee rights during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Wage and Hour District Director Eric Murray in Phoenix, encouraging employers to call the agency or use its online tools to learn more about the requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

The sick-leave law allows businesses to receive refundable, dollar-for-dollar tax credits for their outlays to pay for COVID-19 related sick leave.

Contact senior reporter David Wichner at dwichner@tucson.com or 573-4181. On Twitter: @dwichner. On Facebook: Facebook.com/DailyStarBiz

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