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Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Expansion of Paid Leave

Published:  March 20, 2020

On March 18, 2020, President Donald Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This act is a coronavirus relief package resulting in two (2) new provisions expanding paid leave in regards to the Family Medical Leave Act and Federal Employer Paid Sick Leave. These two (2) provisions are federally mandated and will provide relief to many employees but not all. The two (2) provisions signed into law are reflective of COVID-19 and the impact the coronavirus has had on many employers and employees alike. The new provisions will be in full effect starting on April 2, 2020, and will only be temporary, ending on December 31, 2020.

Emergency Family Medical Leave Act (e-FMLA)

The e-FMLA is designed to provide more eligibility for employees to take paid leave. Although it will be easier for more employees to be granted paid leave, there are still requirements employees will need to satisfy before they will become eligible. To become eligible for e-FMLA, companies must have less than 500 employees and will apply to caregivers who are unable to work (via in person or remotely) because of the need to care of a child(s) who is under the age of eighteen (18) based on a school or place of childcare closing due to governmental regulations regarding a public health emergency. Furthermore, an employee will only need to have been an employee with the company for 30 days to request the leave. This is a big difference compared to FMLA, where an employee would need to have a year of service and 1,250 or more hours of work to become eligible. The Act applies to companies, nonprofits, and governmental employees.

As with FMLA, e-FMLA will be providing the eligible employees 12 weeks of leave. The first ten (10) days will be unpaid. Once the first ten (10) days have be completed, employees will be paid 2/3 of their regular rate, capping at $200/day and $10,000/aggregated. Also, employees can use their other leave to make up the 1/3 unpaid leave. Companies will be unable to require employees to use other paid leave, but employees may elect to use other leave such as vacation, personal leave, or sick/medical leave for the 1/3 time. It is important to understand companies only will be paying 2/3 meaning companies will be providing 80 hours of paid sick time.

The expanded paid leave will not be able to be used intermittently as opposed to FMLA leave. Additionally, employees who will be eligible and who foresee a need to use the paid leave must supply their employers with notice of the potential use. The leave under the Act will run concurrently with FMLA. Moreover, job protection leave will not apply to employees who work for a company that has less than twenty-five (25) employees or if a position is no longer in existence due to employer operations.  

With e-FMLA comes exceptions. This includes certain employees who will be excluded from the eligibility list, including healthcare providers and emergency responders. Small businesses may be exempt under the Act as well if the Secretary of Labor provides so. The small businesses would be those with fewer than 50 employees.  Employers will be paying for the expanded paid leave but will receive a tax credit within three months. The reimbursement will cover contributions made by the employer during the leave.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave (e-PSLA)

The e-PLSA applies to the public sector and private sector with less than 500 employees. There is no minimum number of days an employee must have worked to become eligible. To become eligible for payment at an employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511/day and $5,110/aggregated, an employee must only be unable to work based upon six (6) qualifying reasons. These qualifying reasons include a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19; advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19; or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis.

To be provided with 80 hours of paid sick time or 2/3 rate of pay, up to $200/day and $2,000/aggregated, an employee will be eligible based upon either caring for an individual subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed, or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency; or 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.

As with e-FMLA, exceptions will apply to healthcare providers and emergency responders. Part-time workers will also be eligible for the paid leave as long as the employee has worked for the company for six (6) months prior to taking the leave. Those employees who have worked for a company for less than six (6) months will be entitled to paid leave based upon the employee’s normal schedule over a two-week period. Furthermore, similarly to e-FMLA, a company must have less than 500 employees, and will need to provide 80 hours of emergency paid leave, instead of the initial ten (10) days of leave permitted by e-FMLA. This paid leave does not carry over to the next year.

It is important for companies to post information regarding e-FMLA and e-PSLA within the workplace for employees. This will provide employees with information needed to determine whether they would be eligible. Based upon the timing of e-FMLA and e-PSLA, employers should amend their current policies to reflect the time period these provisions will remain in effect.

If you have any questions regarding the above or any other questions related to the Coronavirus and workplace and operational preparedness, please contact the attorneys at Royal P.C.

We are available at all times, 24-7 through this evolving process. Please contact us via phone or email for any and all questions.

Our attorneys cell phone numbers are as follows:

Amy Royal: (413) 695-1075

Tim Netkovick: (413) 335-8422

Sarah Ryzewski: (774) 230-5627