The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed by Congress last week contains two key provisions that affect many workers. First, the Act expands Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rights (called the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act). Second, the Act gives some employees a right to paid leave in certain circumstances (called the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act). The Department of Labor has not yet issued its regulations explaining how this law operates but it did answer some Frequently Asked Questions with important information for workers.
Here are some important points for workers to know:
* The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply specifically to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
* The Family and Medical Leave Act that existed before the coronavirus is still in effect and employees have all of their former rights under that law.
* The FMLA has been expanded under the new emergency provisions to include some paid leave.
* Under the FMLA Expansion Act not all FMLA leave is now paid leave. The only leave that must be paid under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act is when the FMLA leave exceeds ten days and is taken because the employee must care for a child whose school or daycare closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
* Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act any paid leave that an employer offered prior to the coronavirus pandemic stays the same, but the emergency law creates rights to additional sick leave in certain circumstances.
* Workers are entitled to paid sick leave if they cannot work because the employee is subject to a quarantine order, the employee has been told by a doctor or other health care provider to self-quarantine, the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, the employee is caring for someone who is sick or quarantined, or the employee is caring for children because their school or daycare is closed.
* Workers covered by this law are entitled to paid sick leave, but the law caps at 80 the number of hours of paid leave. So if an employee takes 80 hours of paid sick leave because he or she in quarantine, that worker cannot take additional paid sick leave under this law for one of the other four reasons, like caring for someone else who is sick.
* An employee may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave to care for a child whose school or day care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons.
Employment laws are complex and, in this unprecedented situation, they are changing rapidly. The FFCRA is no exception. Under this new law, workers who have to take time off because of the coronavirus pandemic may be entitled to paid sick leave and/or paid leave under the FMLA emergency expansion. As always, we are here to help you with your employment situation.
For more information on who qualifies for relief under the FFCRA and what the laws cover see Erin Heidrich’s recent post on the subject.
Click here to view the DOL’s poster with information employers are required to provide to their employees.