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Paid Leave Mandate Under Families First Coronavirus Response Act Expanded By Federal Court

| Sep 1, 2020 | COVID-19, Wrongful Termination |

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s (FFCRA) requires employers meeting certain criteria to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (DOL) enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements.

The FFCRAprovides that covered employers must provide the following to all employees:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work in order to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or care for a child (younger than 18) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days:

  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Covered Employers: The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave:

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for expanded family leave if the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.

Duration of Leave:

For reasons (1)-(4) and (6): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 80 hours of leave, and a part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period.

For reason (5): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave at 40 hours a week, and a part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

Calculation of Pay:

For leave reasons (1), (2), or (3): employees taking leave shall be paid at either their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).

For leave reasons (4) or (6): employees taking leave shall be paid at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).

For leave reason (5): employees taking leave shall be paid at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate (over a 12-week period—two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave).

Tax Credits: Covered employers qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the FFCRA. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes leave under the Act for a qualifying reason, up to the appropriate per diem and aggregate payment caps. Applicable tax credits also extend to amounts paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage. For more information, please see the Department of the Treasury’s website.

Employer Notice: Each covered employer must post in a conspicuous place on its premises a notice of FFCRA requirements.[7]

Prohibitions: Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who takes paid sick leave under the FFCRA and files a complaint or institutes a proceeding under or related to the FFCRA.

Penalties and Enforcement: Employers in violation of the first two weeks’ paid sick time or unlawful termination provisions of the FFCRA will be subject to the penalties and enforcement. Employers in violation of the provisions providing for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) are subject to the enforcement provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act. The Department will observe a temporary period of non-enforcement for the first 30 days after the Act takes effect, so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act.

In a decision impacting all employers covered by FFCRA paid leave mandates, a federal court ruled that some limitations in favor of employers would not apply. The court found that:

  • Employees may be eligible for FFCRA-paid leave even if there was no work for them to do
  • Health care provider employers may not have the option of denying FFCRA to overly-inclusive classes of employees
  • Employer approval is not required for certain intermittent use of leave
  • The DOL’s documentation requirement “imposes a different and more stringent precondition to leave” than the statutory notice requirements

As we all continue to be impacted by COVID-19, our law firm continues to keep abreast of changes in the law impacting the rights of employees during these unprecedented times.

The Rutten Law Firm APC | Employment Lawyers