After a few days of negotiation, the federal “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (Act) passed the Senate and was signed into law by President Trump late Wednesday. Of particular importance to employers are provisions related to paid sick leave and paid Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave. Both provisions will become effective not later than 15 days after enactment and will remain in effect until December 31, 2020. Set forth below are some of the key aspects of these provisions.
Which Employers are Covered?
Both the paid FMLA and paid sick leave provisions apply only to private employers with fewer than 500 employees, as well as most public employers. The 500-employee requirement is company-wide, not location specific.
Both provisions permit an employer of an employee who is a healthcare provider or an emergency responder to elect to exclude the employee from the application of these two provisions.
In addition, they both allow subsequent U.S. Department of Labor regulations to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees when the provision would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Covered employers must make available 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees (or the equivalent of the average number of hours over two weeks for part-time employees) for the following reasons:
- The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- The employee has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2).
- The employee is caring for their son or daughter if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of the son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
- 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.
There is no accrual or waiting period for an employee to be eligible for paid sick leave under the Act. The paid sick leave requirements apply to all employees of covered employers.
Paid sick leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate, but it is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate per employee for a use described in paragraph (1), (2), or (3) and $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate per employee for a use described in paragraph (4), (5), or (6).
By: Christian P. Jones