On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). It applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers may elect to exclude “health care providers” or “emergency responders” from its coverage.
The Department of Labor also has information on the new Act, including a “Questions and Answers” page. The law will take effect on April 1, 2020 and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Employers covered by the Act must post a notice of FFCRA’s requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises.
The two key pieces of the FFCRA include the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act:
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees as described below:
- Employers must provide full-time employees with up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (and part-time employees the number of hours worked, on average, during a two-week period) who are “unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave” and regardless of their length of employment, for any of the following reasons:
- 1.“The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.”
- 2. “The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.”
- 3. “The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.”
- 4. “The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to quarantine or self-quarantine relating to COVID-19.”
- 5. “The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.”
- 6. “The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.”
- Employees eligible to receive paid sick leave arising out of the circumstances described in paragraphs (1)–(3), above, are entitled to paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay, but not to exceed “$511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.”
- Employees eligible to receive paid sick leave arising out of the circumstances described in paragraphs (4)–(6), above, are entitled to paid sick leave at two-thirds their regular rate of pay, but not to exceed “$200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate.”
- This paid sick leave is in addition to any paid sick leave already provided by the employer but employees may choose to first use paid sick leave under this Act.
- Employees cannot extend paid sick leave permitted under this Act into subsequent years, and employers do not have to pay out such sick leave out upon termination of employment.
The Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act also expands the current Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) as follows:
- Employees are eligible for benefits under the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act if they have been employed by their employer for “at least 30 calendar days.”
- The FMLA’s current 12-week leave eligibility is expanded to also cover employees unable to work so they may care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 whose school has been closed due to a public health emergency.
- The Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act requires employer to partially pay eligible employees for up to 12 weeks of leave. The first 10 days of leave may be unpaid, but for the remaining period, employers must provide paid leave in no less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay. However, “In no event shall such paid leave exceed $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.”
- The Act requires that employers (unless they have fewer than 25 employees) restore employees who took covered leave to the same or equivalent position when the employees return to work.
We expect numerous questions of scope and interpretation to arise, such as whether an employee is indeed subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19, since we are currently working with clients to identify which businesses are subject to these orders. DGS attorneys are available to answer your questions about this new law and related questions or concerns you have regarding COVID-19.