County settles Department of Labor complaint

John Richmeier

The Leavenworth County government has agreed to pay back wages to a former employee to settle a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor.

County officials have agreed to pay the former employee $4,998 in back wages after the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division determined the county wrongly denied the employees’ request for paid leave to care for his child whose school was closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Department of Labor officials also determined the county wrongly terminated the employee for allegedly misrepresenting his spouse’s ability to care for the child during the school closure, according to a news release from the Department of Labor.

WHD investigators found Leavenworth County violated the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

According to a Department of Labor website, the FFCRA makes some employees eligible for up to 10 additional weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at 2/3 of the regular rate of pay if they are unable to work because of a bonafide need for leave to care for children whose schools or child care providers are unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Senior County Counselor David Van Parys said county officials questioned the justification for leave that was provided by the employee.

Van Parys said the county responded to the Department of Labor’s investigation and denied the allegations. But he said the county entered the settlement because it appeared the matter could drag on for some time. He said the Department of Labor has more resources than the county.

“It was felt that the settlement was in the best interest of the taxpayers,” Van Parys said.

Van Parys said county officials also were puzzled by the investigative process used by the Department of Labor.

He said county officials were told they could not see the Department of Labor’s investigative report until the county agreed to pay a fine.

“The county found the lack of transparency in the Department of Labor process to be puzzling,” Van Parys said.

The county has not rehired the employee. Van Parys believes the former employee has found other employment.

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