May 5, 2020
COVID-19 & Work – Part I: Expanded Paid Sick and Family Leave for Employees
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), private employers with 500 or fewer employees are required to provide employees who are impacted by COVID-19 with certain benefits. The law covers the nine months from April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. Note that employers with fewer than 50 employees may be able to seek an exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or childcare unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of their business.
Two of the main provisions, detailed below, fit together to offer qualifying employees a total of 12 weeks of paid leave, during which they potentially will receive the majority of their usual compensation despite not being able to work. The first provision offers 2 weeks of immediate paid sick leave and the second provision expands existing federal law to provide paid leave for an additional 10 weeks.
Emergency Paid Leave
The first major aspect of FFCRA is expanded paid sick leave for employees who (1) are sick, (2) have to care for someone who is sick, or (3) are unable to work because they have dependents that cannot attend school or daycare.
Employees are entitled to this additional emergency paid leave if they fall into at least one of the following 6 categories involving Coronavirus, which prevents them from being able to work:
Benefits to be Paid
This part of the FFCRA is a short-term benefit:
Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (two weeks’ pay, prorated for part-time employees)
II. Family Medical Leave Expansion
The second major aspect of the FFCRA is expanded rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including a new paid leave component (normally FMLA provides for unpaid, protected leave).
Benefits to be Paid:
This part of the FFCRA is a medium-term benefit, picking up where the first part providing Emergency Paid Leave ends after 2 weeks:
The total FMLA leave remains 12 weeks (this leave may have been used up already based on an employee’s prior FMLA leave use; the expansion does not entitle employees to more total time)
Also note that these rights apply nationally in all states, under federal law. Depending on the state, there may be additional applicable laws. This post only presents basic information about federal provisions.
For example, in California, employees are allowed to use all of the paid sick leave that they receive under state law for paid leave due to Coronavirus, in addition to the new paid leave under federal law. Additionally, the Kin Care Law in California allows employees to use up to half their sick leave to care for an immediate family member that is ill.
Stay tuned for new developments! There are changes and new provisions introduced on a regular basis. This is a very dynamic area of law, as these circumstances are new and evolving.
By Angela Reddock-Wright, Esq., Employment Mediator, Arbitrator & Workplace Investigator (Los Angeles and California)
Nothing in this blog, written materials, or otherwise is intended as legal advice by the Reddock Law Group, Managing Partner Angela Reddock-Wright, or any person associated with the firm. This blog is intended for educational purposes only. The Reddock Law Group does not represent clients in legal matters. We are a full-service mediation, neutral, investigations, and alternative dispute resolution firm. For legal advice, please contact a licensed attorney with experience in employment law.