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Understanding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Pearson Butler

Paid Leave Benefits for American Workers

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This legislation provides two separate paid leave benefits to American workers. The first is Emergency Paid Sick Leave which provides up to eighty hours of paid sick leave to almost all American workers. The second is an amendment to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that expands upon FMLA leave, by providing paid leave for workers who miss extended periods of work for COVID-19 related reasons.

Below are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the new legislation, from our employment law attorneys at Pearson Butler.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act FAQs

When does the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act take affect?

April 2, 2020.

When can I use Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

You can use Emergency Paid Sick Leave if you are unable to work (or telework) due to leave from work because:

  • You are subject to a quarantine or an isolation order;
  • You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • You are caring for someone who is subject to a quarantine order or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • You are caring for a son or daughter if the school has closed or the child’s childcare center has closed due to COVID-19 concerns; or
  • You are experiencing any other substantially similar condition to COVID-19 which the Secretary of Health Services, the Secretary for the Treasury, and the Secretary of Labor Human Resources states is a qualifying condition (none known or approved so far).

How much time do I get for Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

If you are a full-time employee, you are entitled up to 80 hours of paid sick leave. If you are a part-time employee, you are entitled up to the number of hours you work on average in a two-week period.

However, you are not entitled to paid sick time unless you meet one of the qualifying reasons. If you begin using sick leave, and the qualifying reason you took sick leave for ends, the benefit ends immediately, and you must return to work on the next workday.

How Much do I get paid while on Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

The amount of money you get paid per hour depends on the reason that you are using Emergency Paid Sick Leave.

You get paid your full rate of pay, up to $511.00 per day for an aggregate of $5110.00 if the reason you use Emergency Paid Sick Leave is:

  • You are subject to a quarantine or isolation order;
  • You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or
  • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;

You will receive two-thirds of your regular rate of pay up to $200.00 per day for an aggregate amount of $2,000.00 if the reason you use Emergency Paid Sick Leave is:

  • You are caring for someone who is subject to a quarantine order or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • You are caring for a son or daughter if the school has closed or the child’s childcare center has closed due to coronavirus concerns; or
  • You are experiencing any other substantially similar condition to the COVID-19 which the Secretary of Health Services and the Secretary for the Treasury, and the Secretary of Labor Human Resources states is a qualifying condition (none known yet).

Do I have to find someone else to do my job while I’m out on Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

No, the bill specifically prohibits employers from requiring you to find someone else to perform your job while you are on Emergency Paid Sick Leave.

Can my employer make me use my paid time off or sick leave before I use my Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

No, an employer may not require you to use any other benefit prior to using your Emergency Paid Sick Leave benefits.

Can my employer take away my existing PTO or sick leave because of this new benefit?

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act prohibits an employer from taking away or altering their PTO or paid sick leave benefits program in response to benefits provided to you through the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

Can my employer retaliate against me for taking Emergency Paid Sick Leave or encourage me not to take Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

An employer cannot discharge, discipline, or in any manner discriminate against an employee who uses Emergency Paid Sick Leave or has filed a complaint because the employer is not complying with the act.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act FAQs

What’s the difference between this benefit and Emergency Paid Sick Leave?

Under the FMLA, you are entitled to take up to twelve weeks off in a one-year period for qualifying reasons. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides only two weeks of paid leave.

The two different paid leave plans put in place under the Families First Corona Virus Response Act are intended to compliment each other in some ways. Paid leave under the FMLA does not start until you have been off work for two weeks. Emergency Paid Sick Leave begins immediately and is intended to cover that initial two-week gap.

There are several scenarios, however, when an individual might be entitled to Emergency Paid Sick Leave, but not entitled to any further leave or paid leave under the FMLA.

Who is entitled to paid leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

Between now and the end of the year, if you work for an employer that has more than fifty employees, and you have been working for them for thirty days or longer, you are entitled to take paid FMLA leave because of a qualifying need related to a public health emergency.

A qualifying need means that you are unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age because a school or childcare provider has closed dur to a public health emergency.

A public health emergency is an emergency related to COVID-19.

Am I entitled to paid leave if I become sick with COVID-19 or if I need to take care of someone else who is sick with COVID-19?

No. You are still entitled to leave, but not paid leave. The only change to the FMLA is to add staying home to take care of your son or daughter when their school or care center closes as a reason to take FMLA leave. The same provisions related to taking leave because of your own serious health condition or your family remains the same.

COVID-19 is a serious health condition that almost certainly qualifies for standard unpaid FMLA leave.

How much paid leave do I get under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

You are entitled to receive up to twelve workweeks of leave during any twelve-month period of time. The current legislation expires on December 31, 2020.

Do I get paid my full salary while I’m out on FMLA leave for Coronavirus related reasons?

No. You will not be paid for the first ten workdays while on FMLA leave for Coronavirus related reasons. You will then be paid up to two-thirds of your salary, but not to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 total.

Will I get my job back after I take leave?

The rules for reinstatement after your leave are different than the rules for reinstatement after other types of FMLA leave. Generally speaking, you are entitled to your job back (or a similar job with equal pay and benefits) unless the company has experienced a significant economic hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Understanding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

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