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Federal act temporarily expands employee protections amid COVID-19 crisis

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in the United State, more and more people are affected each day. Sick employees may be unable to work and earn an income for several weeks. Healthy employees may need to stay home to care for sick loved ones.

The Federal Government passed emergency legislation in March to protect these vulnerable persons. The Trump administration passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to expand the existing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid sick leave protections. This Act remains in effect from April 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020.

How will this help employees?

Legislation will help employees in several ways:

  • Expanding FMLA coverage: Employees (who have been employed for at least 30 days) will be eligible to receive up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave to care for their children if schools are closed and there are no available childcare options. The first two weeks of emergency family and medical leave are covered as paid sick leave. After two weeks, employees will be paid 2/3 of their typical salary for the next 10 weeks. (Benefits are capped at $200 per day or $10,000 over the 10-week period.)
  • Expanding paid sick leave due to employee illness: Employees can receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave if they are unable to work because they are quarantined at the advice of a health care provider or government order, or if they have COVID-19 symptoms and are in the process of seeking a diagnosis. Employees will be paid their regular pay in full. (Benefits are capped at $511 per day or $5,110 over the 2-week period.)
  • Expanding paid sick leave to care for a loved one: Employees can receive 80 hours of paid sick leave to care for a family member who is quarantined due to the virus, if they need to care for a child whose school is closed due to the virus, or if the individual has symptoms indicating that they are likely to be sick with COVID-19. Employees will be paid 2/3 of their typical salary. (Benefits are capped at $200 per day or $2,000 over the 2-week period.)

Which companies are impacted?

The FFCRA affects private employers with under 500 employees. However, businesses with under 50 employees may be exempt from having to provide parents with paid leave due to school closings or childcare unavailability if doing so could jeopardize the health and well-being of that business.

What about Paid Time Off (PTO)?

Employers cannot force employees to use their PTO before using federally supported paid sick leave. Employees may choose to use their federal paid sick leave before using any accrued PTO.

Who does this protect?

This Act protects employees, and their families, whose financial stability is threatened by the virus. However, these measures also protect the affected employee’s coworkers who would be at-risk of contracting the virus if the sick employee continued to work while exhibiting symptoms.

Your employer must inform you of your expanded rights under the FFCRA by either emailing or direct mailing you this information. Make sure that you fully understand the federal protections so you can protect your and your family’s health during this period of uncertainty.

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Allred, Maroko & Goldberg

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