By Brooks Severson and Bill Tretbar

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The Act makes two weeks of paid sick leave available to many Americans and paid family leave available to most parents who are unable to work as a result of the need to care for a child under the age of 18. The legislation will take effect on April 1, 2020 and remain in effect through December 31, 2020.

By March 25, 2020, each covered employer must post a notice of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. An employer may satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website. Employers subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are already subject to a posting obligation; however, the law signed last week will bring millions of employees not previously covered by FMLA under its protection for the limited period covered by the new law. Employers should not replace their existing FMLA posters but should post an additional poster regarding the expanded FMLA coverage available to certain employees, as well.

The form of poster specified by the United State Department of Labor to inform employees of both new laws is available by clicking here.

Employers are subject to these paid leave provisions if they are a governmental agency or if they have less than 500 employees. A business may be exempt from these requirements if they have less than 50 employees and are able to show that providing the required paid leave could put the company out of business.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires covered employers to provide two weeks of emergency paid sick leave for any employee, regardless of how long the employee has been employed. Employers may exclude employees that are health care providers or emergency responders. Employers are not permitted to require an employee to use existing paid time off before seeking leave under this act.

An employee is eligible for emergency paid leave act in the following situations:

  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 COVID-19 concerns.
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for an individual subject to an order described in paragraph 1 or has been advised as described in paragraph 2.
  5. The employee is caring for a child due to the child’s school or place of care being closed, or the child care provider being 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.

Full time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave, while part-time employees are entitled to leave based on the number of hours worked over a two-week period. Paid leave taken due to the employee’s own illness, is paid at the employee’s regular rate, not to exceed $511 per day. Paid sick leave taken due to caring for another individual or a child whose school is closed or care provider unavailable, is paid at 2/3rds their regular rate, up to $200 per day.

The Expanded Family Medical Leave Act

The Expanded Family Medical Leave Act is available to any employee that has been employed for at least 30 days and is unable to work due to having to care for a child whose school has been closed or whose care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.

The first 10 days of leave under this Act are unpaid; however, an employee may use any accrued paid time off or leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act to receive pay during this time period. After the initial 10 days, leave under the Expanded Family Medical Leave Act must be paid at 2/3rds the regular rate of the employee’s pay, not to exceed $200 per day ($10,000 total).

Employers with 25 or more employees are required to restore an employee taking leave under this Act to their same or equivalent position. Employers with less than 25 employees may be exempt from this requirement if they can show the employee’s position no longer exists due to COVID-19 related conditions.

Additional information regarding the FFCRA may be found at the website of the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division.

These are unprecedent times we are facing. It is vital that employers be prepared to implement these requirements in relatively short order. For more information on the paid leave requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, please contact an attorney in Fleeson Gooing’s Employment Law Group.