The growing consensus that Americans need to stay home and otherwise practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has had a massive impact on workplaces. Workers are increasingly needing time away from work because of reasons related to COVID-19. The federal government took a much needed first step in responding to this reality yesterday by passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The Act strengthens workers’ rights by mandating paid leave for qualified workers. However, the Act does NOT cover all American workers. Those working for very large employers (500+ employees) are excluded. Moreover, health care providers and emergency responders are potentially excluded along with those working for small employers (less than 50 employees). The two major parts of the Act impacting workers are summarized below:
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
The Act requires employers to provide paid sick time to an employee who is unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19, including when the employee is (a) subject to a government quarantine or isolation order, (b) advised by their doctor to self-quarantine, (c) experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking diagnosis, (d) caring for an individual who has been quarantined, or (e) caring for children if school or care provider is closed/unavailable.
- Length of Paid Leave: Full time employees are entitled to two weeks of leave. Part time employees are entitled to a number of leave hours equal to the number of hours they work on average over a two week period.
- Qualified Workers: Covers workers of private employers with fewer than 500 employees and all government employees. However, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempted if providing leave would jeopardize the viability of their business. Moreover, health care providers and emergency responders may be excluded at the discretion of the Secretary of Labor.
- Rate of Pay: Pay is at employee’s regular rate if the employee is following orders to quarantine or suffering from COVID-19 (up to limit of $511/day). If caring for family member or child, then leave is paid at two-thirds regular rate.
Expansion of Family and Medical Leave Act
The Act amends the FMLA to provide leave to an employee who is unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for a minor child if the child’s school or place of child care has been closed or is unavailable due to a public health emergency, such as preventing the spread of COVID-19.
- Length of Leave: Up to 12 weeks.
- Qualified Workers: Covers employees employed for at least 30 days by private employers with fewer than 500 employees or the government. However, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempted if providing leave would jeopardize the viability of their business. Moreover, health care providers and emergency responders may be excluded at the discretion of the Secretary of Labor.
- Rate of Pay: The first 10 days can be unpaid, but the remaining 10 weeks of FMLA leave is required to be paid at two-thirds employee’s regular rate (up to limit of $200/day).
The paid leave entitlements described above go into effect on April 2, 2020. If you believe your employer is violating the obligations regarding paid leave provided by this new legislation, it’s important that you reach out to experienced legal counsel to determine an appropriate course of action. We here at Schaefer Halleen would be happy to speak with you. Contact us.