HR Alert: COVID-19 and The New Federal Law

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On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  Employers will be particularly impacted by two portions of the Act:

(1) Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion and

(2) Emergency Paid Sick Leave.

Both sections will take effect no later than April 2, 2020. We explore each in turn below.

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion does what you might expect based on its name:  it temporarily expands the existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to respond to COVID-19.  Here’s what employers need to know:

  • Most private employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to comply.
  • An employee can be eligible for leave if she’s been employed by her employer for only 30 calendar days.
  • It provides 12 weeks of leave to an eligible employee who can establish that she’s unable to work (or telework) because she needs to care for her child who’s under 18 years old and whose school or place of care has been closed due to a COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • The first ten days of this leave are unpaid, during which time the employee can elect (but is not required) to use her accrued paid time off.
  • All remaining leave is paid leave, during which the employer is required to pay the employee at least two-thirds of her regular rate of pay multiplied by the number of hours she normally would be scheduled to work, up to $200 per day, and capped at $10,000 for the duration of the leave.
  • An employee isn’t required to provide her employer with notice of the need for leave if the need isn’t foreseeable.
  • These changes expire on December 31, 2020.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave will permit certain employees to receive paid sick time in relation to COVID-19.  Here are the specifics about which employers need to be aware:

  • Most private employers with less than 500 employees will be required to comply.
  • 80 hours of paid sick leave will be available to full-time employees. Part-time workers will be entitled to paid sick leave, with each week’s leave equivalent to the average number of hours she works in a week.
  • Any employee can be eligible for leave regardless of how long she’s worked for her employer.
  • Employees must be paid at their regular rate of pay or minimum wage, whichever is greater.
  • There are six permissible reasons for which an employee may use paid sick leave:  (1) the employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) a health care provider has advised the employee to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; (3) the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis; (4) the employee is caring for an individual who’s subject to a quarantine or isolation order or who’s been advised to self-quarantine by a healthcare provider due to concerns related to COVID-19; (5) the employee is caring for her child whose school or place of care has been closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions; or (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.

Note: Pay for leave based on reasons 1-3 is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total. Pay for leave based on reasons 4-6 is capped at $200 per day and $2000 total.

  • Employers have the right to exclude healthcare provider or emergency responder employees from taking this leave.
  • Employers are permitted to require that the employee follow reasonable notice procedures in order to receive paid sick time.
  • These changes expire on December 31, 2020.

These federal laws overlap with the new paid sick leave law that went into effect in New York on March 18, 2020. We encourage employers to contact their legal counsel to ensure their policies comply with both State and federal law. If you’re an employer with questions about these changes, contact us. Our team is here to assist you.

Lisa Coppola

Written by Lisa Coppola

Founder of The Coppola Firm

Lisa A. Coppola, Esq. understands the challenges her clients face, whether they’re starting a new business, taking their existing operations in a new direction, or facing a claim or threat.

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