Families First Coronavirus Response Act extends Family Medical Leave Act protections and mandates paid sick leave
In response to COVID-19, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act) which extends protections under the Family Medical Leave Act and mandates paid sick leave to employees working for employers with less than 500 employees. These temporary protections are scheduled to begin 15 days after the signing of the Act (3-18-2020) and terminate on December 31, 2020. The benefits are capped based on the type of leave and whether the paid leave is for the employee themselves or because the employee is caring for family members or children whose schools are closed because of COVID-19.
Here are key provisions relating to employers (recall this applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees). In addition, the Act provides that the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor may exempt emergency responders, certain healthcare providers and employers with fewer than 50 employees.
Public health emergency leave
Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected public health emergency leave to their employees who have been employed by them for at least 30 calendar days. This leave is for qualifying needs related to this particular public health emergency (COVID-19) and applies when an employee cannot work or telework because they need to care for their minor child because the child’s school is closed or they have no child care because of COVID-19. The first 10 days of this public health emergency leave are unpaid, but employees may elect to substitute their accrued vacation leave, personal leave or medical or sick leave. Employees will be able to substitute the newly mandated paid sick leave in these first 10 days. The public health emergency leave pay will be no less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, capped at no more than $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate. The job protection may not apply to employers with fewer than 25 employees if the employee’s position no longer exists because of economic conditions related to the public health emergency. Payroll tax credit will be available to employers providing this required paid family leave.
Emergency paid sick leave
Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to their full-time employees and two weeks of pro-rated pay to their part-time employees regardless of the length of time the individuals have been employed. Employers MAY NOT require employees to use other paid leave first. Employers will be required to post a notice (when it is available from the Department of Labor). Employees are eligible for this paid leave if they are quarantined or isolated and unable to work or telework because of COVID-19; if their medical provider instructed them to self-quarantine and not work or telework because of COVID-19; or if they have symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a diagnosis. In any of these situations, the paid leave is capped at $511 per day or $5,110 in the aggregate. Employees also are eligible for paid sick leave if they are unable to work or telework because they are caring for a family member with COVID-19 or are caring for minor children out of school because of the virus. In these scenarios, the paid leave is capped at $200 per day or $2,000 in the aggregate. Payroll tax credits will be available to employers providing emergency paid sick leave.
Mandatory notification of unemployment benefits
Employers separating employees from their employment because of COVID-19 will be required to provide notice to their affected employees of their ability to seek unemployment benefits. States are required to ensure that employees can submit applications either in person, by phone or online.
Should you have questions regarding the extension of the Family Medical Leave Act or federal paid sick leave, contact one of Chuhak & Tecson’s Employment attorneys.
This Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. communication is intended only to provide information regarding developments in the law and information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute advice regarding legal problems and should not be relied upon as such.
Client alert authored by: Jeralyn H. Baran, Principal