How Does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Affect Workers?
On April 1, 2020 a law called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect. The FFCRA requires certain employers to provide their employees with expanded family and medical leave or paid sick leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1 through December 31, 2020. Unfortunately, exemptions exist for coverage of Health Care Providers and Emergency Responders.
FMLEA provides up to 12 weeks off* from work for employees who have children at home due to school or daycare closures related to COVID-19. Under this Act, employees who have worked at least 30 days for an employer who has LESS THAN 500 employees may qualify for 2/3 of their pay for 10 out of the 12 weeks. While this only offers 10 weeks of partial pay, the Paid Sick Leave Act (see below) makes up the other 2 weeks of pay, allowing for parents of children who need supervision to receive 2/3 their usual pay while taking 12 weeks off from work to tend to their kids. The new law has protections in place for employees, making it illegal for an employer to refuse to rehire or to demote an employee when they are ready to return to work.
Paid Sick Leave Act
The PSLA provides up to 80 hours of paid time off for employees who need time off for specific reasons related to COVID-19. In order to be eligible, an employee must have worked for at least 1 day for an employer with LESS THAN 500 employees and be experiencing one of the qualifying conditions. There are two distinct categories of paid sick leave, with one providing up to 2 weeks of pay at the employee’s full pay rate* and the other providing up to 2 weeks of pay at 2/3 of the employee’s usual pay rate*.
To receive up to 80 hours of full sick pay*, the employee must be unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:
- is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
To receive up to 80 hours of 2/3 sick pay*, the employee must be unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:
- is caring for an individual subject to an order for isolation or self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or childcare provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19;
- is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
Other Important Information
It should be noted, that employees may only take one instance of paid leave through the end of 2020. In other words, employees cannot claim two weeks of paid sick leave to care for a quarantined relative after already using two weeks of Paid Sick Leave due to their own quarantine. Similarly, an employee may not take Family and Medical Leave more than once.
Where leave is foreseeable, an employee should provide notice of leave to the employer. An employer is not allowed to charge against an employee’s regular sick days or PTO when an employee takes time off under either FMLEA or PSTA. However, the employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave they have for the first two weeks of partial paid leave.
Paid sick time provided under this Act does not carryover from one year to the next. Employees are not entitled to reimbursement for unused leave upon termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
The temporary Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Paid Sick Leave Act offers employees protection by the federal government under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These new laws, which only apply between April 1 and December 31, 2020, are still evolving. Any leave taken before April 1, 2020 is not protected.
If you work for a business that employs less than 500 people and you believe you are being denied paid leave you qualify for under one of the new laws, you should consult with an employment law attorney who can advise you of your rights.
It is the employer’s responsibility to keep up with these laws and it’s their obligation to ensure your rights are protected. If your boss is saying you can’t take leave, reach out to USA Employment Lawyers for assistance.
*Limits and exceptions may apply
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