Tag Archives: paid leave

DOL Answers More Questions About Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the FFCRA

On April 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued yet another series of questions and answers to provide additional guidance regarding the protections and relief offered by the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The DOL also reorganized its FFCRA questions page by categories (definitions, eligibility, coverage, application, and enforcement), in addition to its questions and answers by number.

As noted in our recent blog post, the FFCRA provides expanded paid and unpaid family and medical leave broader than the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and paid sick leave to certain employees affected by COVID-19. In addition, it provides help for individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic—like reimbursement through a refundable tax credit available to private employers. The FFCRA became effective April 1, 2020, and will expire at the end of the year. It is enforced by the WHD. Continue reading

DOL Issues Regulations and More Guidance About Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

An update to this post was published April 22

On April 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published a temporary rule regarding the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). It contains temporary regulations to implement the FFCRA, which are effective from April 2, 2020, through December 31, 2020.  In addition to the actual regulations, which are found in part 826 of title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the rule contains background and discussion sections which provide additional guidance. The temporary regulations address many of the issues discussed in the DOL’s series of questions and answers that it has been publishing regarding the FFCRA.

Before the publication of the temporary rule, on April 1, 2020, the DOL’s WHD published another series of questions and answers to provide additional guidance regarding the protections and relief offered by the FFCRA.

As noted in our recent blog post, the FFCRA provides expanded paid and unpaid family and medical leave broader than the current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid sick leave to certain employees affected by COVID-19. In addition, it provides help for individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic—like reimbursement through a refundable tax credit available to private employers. Continue reading

DOL Issues New and Revised Guidance About Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

An update to this post was published April 22.

This post was updated April 3. Updates are shown in red.

On March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) published further guidance regarding the protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which takes effect today, April 1, 2020. This guidance is provided through a series of questions and answers.

As noted in our recent blog posts, the FFCRA provides expanded paid and unpaid family and medical leave broader than the current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid sick leave to certain employees affected by COVID-19. In addition, it provides help for individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic—like reimbursement through a refundable tax credit available to private employers. Continue reading

Department of Labor Expands Guidance About Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

An update to this post was published April 22.

Today, March 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (DOL) published additional guidance addressing many pressing questions about the protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The DOL provided its initial guidance late on March 24, 2020, in which it clarified that the FFCRA will take effect on April 1, 2020.

As noted in our recent blog posts, FFCRA will provide expanded family and medical leave broader than the current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid sick leave to certain employees affected by COVID-19, as well as other help to individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

The March 24 guidance clarified the effective date of the FFCRA and addressed critical questions, such as no retroactive application of the new leave; how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses can obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate paid leave wages to which employees are entitled under this law (see answers to questions numbered 1-14).

The second guidance addresses several concerns regarding the implementation of the FFCRA, such as: what documents employees must provide when requesting to take leave under the FFCRA; what records employers must keep when employees take leave under the FFCRA; clarification that FFCRA leave is not available when employers are closed, furlough employees, or do not have work or telework for employee; interaction between teleworking and leave taken for child care needs; authorizing employers’ option to allow certain intermittent FFCRA leave; and permitting employers to supplement FFCRA leave paid at 2/3 rate with employer paid leave up to normal earning rate if employees select supplementation.  (See answers to questions numbered 15-37).

Below you will find clarifications primarily provided by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division with some additional italicized emphasis.

DEFINITIONS

“Paid sick leave” – means paid leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

“Expanded family and medical leave” – means paid leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

  1. What is the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

  1. As an employer, how do I know if my business is under the 500-employee threshold and therefore must provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

You have fewer than 500 employees if, at the time your employee’s leave is to be taken, you employ fewer than 500 full-time and part-time employees within the United States, which includes any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any Territory or possession of the United States. In making this determination, you should include employees on leave; temporary employees who are jointly employed by you and another employer (regardless of whether the jointly-employed employees are maintained on only your or another employer’s payroll); and day laborers supplied by a temporary agency (regardless of whether you are the temporary agency or the client firm if there is a continuing employment relationship). Workers who are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rather than employees, are not considered employees for purposes of the 500-employee threshold.

Typically, a corporation (including its separate establishments or divisions) is considered to be a single employer and its employees must each be counted towards the 500-employee threshold. Where a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two corporations are separate employers unless they are joint employers under the FLSA with respect to certain employees. If two entities are found to be joint employers, all their common employees must be counted in determining whether paid sick leave must be provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and expanded family and medical leave must be provided under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

In general, two or more entities are separate employers unless they meet the integrated employer test under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). If two entities are an integrated employer under the FMLA, then employees of all entities making up the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

  1. If I am a private sector employer and have 500 or more employees, do the Acts apply to me?

No. Private sector employers are only required to comply with the Acts if they have fewer than 500 employees.[1]

  1. If providing child care-related paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave at my business with fewer than 50 employees would jeopardize the viability of my business as a going concern, how do I take advantage of the small business exemption?

To elect this small business exemption, you should document why your business with fewer than 50 employees meets the criteria set forth by the Department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations.

You should not send any materials to the Department of Labor when seeking a small business exemption for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave.

  1. How do I count hours worked by a part-time employee for purposes of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave? 

A part-time employee is entitled to leave for his or her average number of work hours in a two-week period. Therefore, you calculate hours of leave based on the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work. If the normal hours scheduled are unknown, or if the part-time employee’s schedule varies, you may use a six-month average to calculate the average daily hours. Such a part-time employee may take paid sick leave for this number of hours per day for up to a two-week period, and may take expanded family and medical leave for the same number of hours per day up to ten weeks after that.

If this calculation cannot be made because the employee has not been employed for at least six months, use the number of hours that you and your employee agreed that the employee would work upon hiring. And if there is no such agreement, you may calculate the appropriate number of hours of leave based on the average hours per day the employee was scheduled to work over the entire term of his or her employment.

  1. When calculating pay due to employees, must overtime hours be included?

Yes. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires you to pay an employee for hours the employee would have been normally scheduled to work even if that is more than 40 hours in a week.

However, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires that paid sick leave be paid only up to 80 hours over a two-week period. For example, an employee who is scheduled to work 50 hours a week may take 50 hours of paid sick leave in the first week and 30 hours of paid sick leave in the second week. In any event, the total number of hours paid under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is capped at 80.

If the employee’s schedule varies from week to week, please see the answer to Question 5, because the calculation of hours for a full-time employee with a varying schedule is the same as that for a part-time employee.

Please keep in mind the daily and aggregate caps placed on any pay for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave as described in the answer to Question 7.

Please note that pay does not need to include a premium for overtime hours under either the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

  1. As an employee, how much will I be paid while taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA?

It depends on your normal schedule as well as why you are taking leave.

If you are taking paid sick leave because you are unable to work or telework due to a need for leave because you (1) are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or (3) are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis, you will receive for each applicable hour the greater of:

  • your regular rate of pay,
  • the federal minimum wage in effect under the FLSA, or
  • the applicable State or local minimum wage.

In these circumstances, you are entitled to a maximum of $511 per day, or $5,110 total over the entire paid sick leave period.

If you are taking paid sick leave because you are: (1) caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or an individual who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; (2) caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; or (3) experiencing any other substantially-similar condition that may arise, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, you are entitled to compensation at 2/3 of the greater of the amounts above.

Under these circumstances, you are subject to a maximum of $200 per day, or $2,000 over the entire two week period.

If you are taking expanded family and medical leave, you may take paid sick leave for the first ten days of that leave period, or you may substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave you have under your employer’s policy. For the following ten weeks, you will be paid for your leave at an amount no less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would be normally scheduled to work. The regular rate of pay used to calculate this amount must be at or above the federal minimum wage, or the applicable state or local minimum wage. However, you will not receive more than $200 per day or $12,000 for the twelve weeks that include both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave when you are on leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

To calculate the number of hours for which you are entitled to paid leave, please see the answers to Questions 5-6.

  1. What is my regular rate of pay for purposes of the FFCRA?

For purposes of the FFCRA, the regular rate of pay used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate over a period of up to six months prior to the date on which you take leave.[2] If you have not worked for your current employer for six months, the regular rate used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate of pay for each week you have worked for your current employer.

If you are paid with commissions, tips, or piece rates, these wages will be incorporated into the above calculation.

You can also compute this amount for each employee by adding all compensation that is part of the regular rate over the above period and divide that sum by all hours actually worked in the same period.

  1. May I take 80 hours of paid sick leave for my self-quarantine and then another amount of paid sick leave for another reason provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act?

No. You may take up to two weeks—or ten days—(80 hours for a full-time employee, or for a part-time employee, the number of hours equal to the average number of hours that the employee works over a typical two-week period) of paid sick leave for any combination of qualifying reasons. However, the total number of hours for which you receive paid sick leave is capped at 80 hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

  1. If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?

You may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave. You may take both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period thus covers the first ten workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act unless the you elect to use existing vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first ten workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent ten weeks under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act.

Please note that you can only receive the additional ten weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

  1. Can my employer deny me paid sick leave if my employer gave me paid leave for a reason identified in the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act priorto the Act going into effect?

No. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act imposes a new leave requirement on employers that is effective beginning on April 1, 2020.

  1. Is all leave under the FMLA now paid leave?

No. The only type of family and medical leave that is paid leave is expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act when such leave exceeds ten days. This includes only leave taken because the employee must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

  1. Are the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements retroactive?

No.

  1. How do I know whether I have “been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer” for purposes of expanded family and medical leave?

You are considered to have been employed by your employer for at least 30 calendar days if your employer had you on its payroll for the 30 calendar days immediately prior to the day your leave would begin. For example, if you want to take leave on April 1, 2020, you will need to have been on your employer’s payroll as of March 2, 2020.

If you have been working for a company as a temporary employee, and the company subsequently hires you on a full-time basis, you may count any days you previously worked as a temporary employee toward this 30-day eligibility period.

  1. What records do I need to keep when my employee takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

If one of your employees takes paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, you must require your employee to provide you with appropriate documentation in support of the reason for the leave, including: the employee’s name, qualifying reason for requesting leave, statement that the employee is unable to work, including telework, for that reason, and the date(s) for which leave is requested. Documentation of the reason for the leave will also be necessary, such as the source of any quarantine or isolation order, or the name of the health care provider who has advised you to self-quarantine. For example, this documentation may include a copy of the Federal, State or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 applicable to the employee or written documentation by a health care provider advising the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19. If you intend to claim a tax credit under the FFCRA for your payment of the sick leave wages, you should retain this documentation in your records. You should consult Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applicable forms, instructions, and information for the procedures that must be followed to claim a tax credit, including any needed substantiation to be retained to support the credit.

If one of your employees takes expanded family and medical leave to care for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19, under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, you must require your employee to provide you with appropriate documentation in support of such leave, just as you would for conventional FMLA leave requests. For example, this could include a notice that has been posted on a government, school, or day care website, or published in a newspaper, or an email from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider. This requirement also applies when the first two weeks of unpaid leave run concurrently with paid sick leave taken for the same reason. If you intend to claim a tax credit under the FFCRA for the expanded family and medical leave, you should retain this documentation in your records. You should consult IRS applicable forms, instructions, and information for the procedures that must be followed to claim a tax credit, including any needed substantiation to be retained to support the credit.

  1. What documents do I need to give my employer to get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

You are entitled to paid sick leave if you are unable to work or telework due to a qualifying reason related to COVID-19. You must provide to your employer documentation in support of the reasons for your paid sick leave. These documents may include a copy of the Federal, State or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or written documentation by a health care provider advising you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-1

You must provide to your employer documentation in support of your expanded family and medical leave taken to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19-related reasons. For example, this requirement may be satisfied with a notice of closure or unavailability from your child’s school, place of care, or child care provider, including a notice that may have been posted on a government, school, or day care website, published in a newspaper, or emailed to you from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider. Your employer must retain this notice or documentation in support of expanded family and medical leave, including while you may be taking unpaid leave that runs concurrently with paid sick leave if taken for the same reason.

Please also note that all existing certification requirements under the FMLA remain in effect if you are taking leave for one of the existing qualifying reasons under the FMLA. For example, if you are taking leave beyond the two weeks of emergency paid sick leave because your medical condition for COVID-19-related reasons rises to the level of a serious health condition, you must continue to provide medical certifications under the FMLA if required by your employer.

  1. When am I able to telework under the FFCRA?

You may telework when your employer permits or allows you to perform work while you are at home or at a location other than your normal workplace. Telework is work for which normal wages must be paid and is not compensated under the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.

  1. What does it mean to be unable to work, including telework for COVID-19 related reasons?

You are unable to work if your employer has work for you and one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA prevents you from being able to perform that work, either under normal circumstances at your normal worksite or by means of telework.

If you and your employer agree that you will work your normal number of hours, but outside of your normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then you are able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working that schedule.

  1. If I am or become unable to telework, am I entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

If your employer permits teleworking—for example, allows you to perform certain tasks or work a certain number of hours from home or at a location other than your normal workplace—and you are unable to perform those tasks or work the required hours because of one of the qualifying reasons for paid sick leave, then you are entitled to take paid sick leave.

Similarly, if you are unable to perform those teleworking tasks or work the required teleworking hours because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, then you are entitled to take expanded family and medical leave. Of course, to the extent you are able to telework while caring for your child, paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is not available.

  1. May I take my paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave intermittently while teleworking?

Yes, if your employer allows it and if you are unable to telework your normal schedule of hours due to one of the qualifying reasons in the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. In that situation, you and your employer may agree that you may take paid sick leave intermittently while teleworking. Similarly, if you are prevented from teleworking your normal schedule of hours because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, you and your employer may agree that you can take expanded family medical leave intermittently while teleworking.

You may take intermittent leave in any increment, provided that you and your employer agree. For example, if you agree on a 90-minute increment, you could telework from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, take leave from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM, and then return to teleworking.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve flexibility and meet mutual needs, and the Department is supportive of such voluntary arrangements that combine telework and intermittent leave.

  1. May I take my paid sick leave intermittently while working at my usual worksite (as opposed to teleworking)?

It depends on why you are taking paid sick leave and whether your employer agrees. Unless you are teleworking, paid sick leave for qualifying reasons related to COVID-19 must be taken in full-day increments. It cannot be taken intermittently if the leave is being taken because:

  • You are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • You are caring for an individual who either is subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
  • You are experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Unless you are teleworking, once you begin taking paid sick leave for one or more of these qualifying reasons, you must continue to take paid sick leave each day until you either (1) use the full amount of paid sick leave or (2) no longer have a qualifying reason for taking paid sick leave. This limit is imposed because if you are sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, or caring for an individual who is sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, the intent of FFCRA is to provide such paid sick leave as necessary to keep you from spreading the virus to others.

If you no longer have a qualifying reason for taking paid sick leave before you exhaust your paid sick leave, you may take any remaining paid sick leave at a later time, until December 31, 2020, if another qualifying reason occurs.

In contrast, if you and your employer agree, you may take paid sick leave intermittently if you are taking paid sick leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons. For example, if your child is at home because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, you may take paid sick leave on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to care for your child, but work at your normal worksite on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve maximum flexibility. Therefore, if employers and employees agree to intermittent leave on less than a full work day for employees taking paid sick leave to care for their child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19-related reasons, the Department is supportive of such voluntary arrangements.

  1. May I take my expanded family and medical leave intermittently while my child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, if I am not teleworking?

Yes, but only with your employer’s permission. Intermittent expanded family and medical leave should be permitted only when you and your employer agree upon such a schedule. For example, if your employer and you agree, you may take expanded family and medical leave on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but work Tuesdays and Thursdays, while your child is at home because your child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, for the duration of your leave.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve flexibility. Therefore, if employers and employees agree to intermittent leave on a day-by-day basis, the Department supports such voluntary arrangements.

  1. If my employer closed my worksite before April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I still get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If, prior to the FFCRA’s effective date, your employer sent you home and stops paying you because it does not have work for you to do, you will not get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it is required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

It should be noted, however, that if your employer is paying you pursuant to a paid leave policy or State or local requirements, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance.

  1. If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but before I go out on leave, can I still get paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer closes after the FFCRA’s effective date (even if you requested leave prior to the closure), you will not get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

  1. If my employer closes my worksite while I am on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, what happens?

If your employer closes while you are on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, your employer must pay for any paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave you used before the employer closed. As of the date your employer closes your worksite, you are no longer entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because the employer was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

  1. If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

  1. If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No, not while your worksite is closed. If your employer closes your worksite, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.

  1. If my employer reduces my scheduled work hours, can I use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that I am no longer scheduled to work? 

No. If your employer reduces your work hours because it does not have work for you to perform, you may not use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that you are no longer scheduled to work. This is because you are not prevented from working those hours due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason, even if your reduction in hours was somehow related to COVID-19.

You may, however, take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working your full schedule. If you do, the amount of leave to which you are entitled is computed based on your work schedule before it was reduced (see Question 5).

  1. May I collect unemployment insurance benefits for time in which I receive pay for paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer provides you paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance. However, each State has its own unique set of rules; and DOL recently clarified additional flexibility to the States (UIPL 20-10) to extend partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours or pay have been reduced. Therefore, individuals should contact their State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

  1. If I elect to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, must my employer continue my health coverage? If I remain on leave beyond the maximum period of expanded family and medical leave, do I have a right to keep my health coverage?

If your employer provides group health coverage that you’ve elected, you are entitled to continued group health coverage during your expanded family and medical leave on the same terms as if you continued to work. If you are enrolled in family coverage, your employer must maintain coverage during your expanded family and medical leave. You generally must continue to make any normal contributions to the cost of your health coverage. See WHD Fact Sheet 28A: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/28a-fmla-employee-protections.

If you do not return to work at the end of your expanded family and medical leave, check with your employer to determine whether you are eligible to keep your health coverage on the same terms (including contribution rates). If you are no longer eligible, you may be able to continue your coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA, which generally applies to employers with 20 or more employees, allows you and your family to continue the same group health coverage at group rates. Your share of that cost may be higher than what you were paying before but may be lower than what you would pay for private individual health insurance coverage. (If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, you may be eligible to continue your health insurance under State laws that are similar to COBRA. These laws are sometimes referred to as “mini COBRA” and vary from State to State.) Contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/workers-and-families/changing-jobs-and-job-loss to learn about health and retirement benefit protections for dislocated workers.

If you elect to take paid sick leave, your employer must continue your health coverage. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), an employer cannot establish a rule for eligibility or set any individual’s premium or contribution rate based on whether an individual is actively at work (including whether an individual is continuously employed), unless absence from work due to any health factor (such as being absent from work on sick leave) is treated, for purposes of the plan or health insurance coverage, as being actively at work.

  1. As an employee, may I use my employer’s preexisting leave entitlements and my FFCRA paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave concurrently for the same hours?

No. If you are eligible to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, as well as paid leave that is already provided by your employer, unless your employer agrees you must choose one type of leave to take. You may not simultaneously take both, unless your employer agrees to allow you to supplement the amount you receive from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, up to your normal earnings, with preexisting leave. For example, if you are receiving 2/3 of your normal earnings from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA and your employer permits, you may use your preexisting employer-provided paid leave to get the additional 1/3 of your normal earnings so that you receive your full normal earnings for each hour.

  1. If I am an employer, may I supplement or adjust the pay mandated under the FFCRA with paid leave that the employee may have under my paid leave policy?

If your employee chooses to use existing leave you have provided, yes; otherwise, no. Paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave under the FFCRA is in addition to employees’ preexisting leave entitlements, including Federal employees. Under the FFCRA, the employee may choose to use existing paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave from your paid leave policy to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, up to the employee’s normal earnings.

However, you are not required to permit an employee to use existing paid leave to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. Further, you may not claim, and will not receive tax credit, for such supplemental amounts.

  1. If I am an employer, may I require an employee to supplement or adjust the pay mandated under the FFCRA with paid leave that the employee may have under my paid leave policy?

No. Under the FFCRA, only the employee may decide whether to use existing paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave from your paid leave policy to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. The employee would have to agree to use existing paid leave under your paid leave policy to supplement or adjust the paid leave under the FFCRA.

  1. If I want to pay my employees more than they are entitled to receive for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, can I do so and claim a tax credit for the entire amount paid to them?

You may pay your employees in excess of FFCRA requirements. But you cannot claim, and will not receive tax credit for, those amounts in excess of the FFCRA’s statutory limits.

  1. I am an employer that is part of a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement, may I satisfy my obligations under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act through contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or program?

You may satisfy your obligations under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act by making contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or other program in accordance with your existing collective bargaining obligations. These contributions must be based on the amount of paid family and medical leave to which each of your employees is entitled under the Act based on each employee’s work under the multiemployer collective bargaining agreement. Such a fund, plan, or other program must allow employees to secure or obtain their pay for the related leave they take under the Act. Alternatively, you may also choose to satisfy your obligations under the Act by other means, provided they are consistent with your bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement.

  1. I am an employer that is part of a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement, may I satisfy my obligations under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act through contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or program?

You may satisfy your obligations under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act by making contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or other program in accordance with your existing collective bargaining obligations. These contributions must be based on the hours of paid sick leave to which each of your employees is entitled under the Act based on each employee’s work under the multiemployer collective bargaining agreement. Such a fund, plan, or other program must allow employees to secure or obtain their pay for the related leave they take under the Act. Alternatively, you may also choose to satisfy your obligations under the Act by other means, provided they are consistent with your bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement.

  1. Are contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or other program the only way an employer that is part of a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement may comply with the paid leave requirements of the FFCRA?

No. Both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provide that, consistent with its bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement, an employer may satisfy its legal obligations under both Acts by making appropriate contributions to such a fund, plan, or other program based on the paid leave owed to each employee. However, the employer may satisfy its obligations under both Acts by other means, provided they are consistent with its bargaining obligations and[1] If you are a Federal employee, you are eligible to take paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.  But only some Federal employees are eligible to take expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Your eligibility will depend on whether you are covered under Title I or Title II of the Family Medical Leave Act. The DOL encourages Federal employees to discuss questions about their eligibility for expanded family and medical leave with their employers or with the Office of Personnel Management. Additional FAQs regarding public sector employers will be forthcoming.

[2] If you are a Federal employee, the State or local minimum wage would be used to calculate the wages owed to you only if the Federal agency that employs you has broad authority to set your compensation and has decided to use the State or local minimum wage.

*           *           *

The DOL also provided a Fact Sheet for Employers and one for employees, as well as workplace posters required for covered employers. We expect the DOL to publish guidance and regulations before or after the FFCRA becomes effective on April 1, 2020.

We are available to assist employers and answer questions related to the FFCRA and other pandemic-related concerns. For additional guidance related to COVID-19 from our firm, please visit our website.

Gail E. Farb
gfarb@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2557

Department of Labor Guidance Explains Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

An update to this post was published April 22.

Late yesterday, March 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced its first round of published guidance about the protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and clarified that the new law will take effect on April 1, 2020.

As noted in our recent blog posts, FFCRA will provide expanded family and medical leave broader than the current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid sick leave to certain employees affected by COVID-19, as well as other help to individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

In addition to clarifying the effective date of the FFCRA, the guidance addresses critical questions, such as no retroactive application of the new leave; how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses can obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate paid leave wages to which employees are entitled under this law.

Below you will find clarifications primarily provided by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division with some italicized emphasis added.

DEFINITIONS

“Paid sick leave” – means paid leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

“Expanded family and medical leave” – means paid leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

1. What is the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

2. As an employer, how do I know if my business is under the 500-employee threshold and therefore must provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

You have fewer than 500 employees if, at the time your employee’s leave is to be taken, you employ fewer than 500 full-time and part-time employees within the United States, which includes any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any Territory or possession of the United States. In making this determination, you should include employees on leave; temporary employees who are jointly employed by you and another employer (regardless of whether the jointly-employed employees are maintained on only your or another employer’s payroll); and day laborers supplied by a temporary agency (regardless of whether you are the temporary agency or the client firm if there is a continuing employment relationship). Workers who are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rather than employees, are not considered employees for purposes of the 500-employee threshold.

Typically, a corporation (including its separate establishments or divisions) is considered to be a single employer and its employees must each be counted towards the 500-employee threshold. Where a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two corporations are separate employers unless they are joint employers under the FLSA with respect to certain employees. If two entities are found to be joint employers, all their common employees must be counted in determining whether paid sick leave must be provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and expanded family and medical leave must be provided under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

In general, two or more entities are separate employers unless they meet the integrated employer test under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). If two entities are an integrated employer under the FMLA, then employees of all entities making up the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

3. If I am a private sector employer and have 500 or more employees, do the Acts apply to me?

No. Private sector employers are only required to comply with the Acts if they have fewer than 500 employees.[1]

4. If providing child care-related paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave at my business with fewer than 50 employees would jeopardize the viability of my business as a going concern, how do I take advantage of the small business exemption?

To elect this small business exemption, you should document why your business with fewer than 50 employees meets the criteria set forth by the Department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations.

You should not send any materials to the Department of Labor when seeking a small business exemption for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave.

5. How do I count hours worked by a part-time employee for purposes of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

A part-time employee is entitled to leave for his or her average number of work hours in a two-week period. Therefore, you calculate hours of leave based on the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work. If the normal hours scheduled are unknown, or if the part-time employee’s schedule varies, you may use a six-month average to calculate the average daily hours. Such a part-time employee may take paid sick leave for this number of hours per day for up to a two-week period, and may take expanded family and medical leave for the same number of hours per day up to ten weeks after that.

If this calculation cannot be made because the employee has not been employed for at least six months, use the number of hours that you and your employee agreed that the employee would work upon hiring. And if there is no such agreement, you may calculate the appropriate number of hours of leave based on the average hours per day the employee was scheduled to work over the entire term of his or her employment.

6. When calculating pay due to employees, must overtime hours be included?

Yes. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires you to pay an employee for hours the employee would have been normally scheduled to work even if that is more than 40 hours in a week.

However, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires that paid sick leave be paid only up to 80 hours over a two-week period. For example, an employee who is scheduled to work 50 hours a week may take 50 hours of paid sick leave in the first week and 30 hours of paid sick leave in the second week. In any event, the total number of hours paid under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is capped at 80.

If the employee’s schedule varies from week to week, please see the answer to Question 5, because the calculation of hours for a full-time employee with a varying schedule is the same as that for a part-time employee.

Please keep in mind the daily and aggregate caps placed on any pay for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave as described in the answer to Question 7.

Please note that pay does not need to include a premium for overtime hours under either the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

7. As an employee, how much will I be paid while taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA?

It depends on your normal schedule as well as why you are taking leave.

If you are taking paid sick leave because you are unable to work or telework due to a need for leave because you (1) are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or (3) are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis, you will receive for each applicable hour the greater of:

    • your regular rate of pay,
    • the federal minimum wage in effect under the FLSA, or
    • the applicable State or local minimum wage.

In these circumstances, you are entitled to a maximum of $511 per day, or $5,110 total over the entire paid sick leave period.

If you are taking paid sick leave because you are: (1) caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or an individual who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; (2) caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; or (3) experiencing any other substantially-similar condition that may arise, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, you are entitled to compensation at 2/3 of the greater of the amounts above.

Under these circumstances, you are subject to a maximum of $200 per day, or $2,000 over the entire two week period.

If you are taking expanded family and medical leave, you may take paid sick leave for the first ten days of that leave period, or you may substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave you have under your employer’s policy. For the following ten weeks, you will be paid for your leave at an amount no less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would be normally scheduled to work. The regular rate of pay used to calculate this amount must be at or above the federal minimum wage, or the applicable state or local minimum wage. However, you will not receive more than $200 per day or $12,000 for the twelve weeks that include both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave when you are on leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

To calculate the number of hours for which you are entitled to paid leave, please see the answers to Questions 5-6.

8. What is my regular rate of pay for purposes of the FFCRA?

For purposes of the FFCRA, the regular rate of pay used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate over a period of up to six months prior to the date on which you take leave.[2] If you have not worked for your current employer for six months, the regular rate used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate of pay for each week you have worked for your current employer.

If you are paid with commissions, tips, or piece rates, these wages will be incorporated into the above calculation.

You can also compute this amount for each employee by adding all compensation that is part of the regular rate over the above period and divide that sum by all hours actually worked in the same period.

9. May I take 80 hours of paid sick leave for my self-quarantine and then another amount of paid sick leave for another reason provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act?

No. You may take up to two weeks—or ten days—(80 hours for a full-time employee, or for a part-time employee, the number of hours equal to the average number of hours that the employee works over a typical two-week period) of paid sick leave for any combination of qualifying reasons. However, the total number of hours for which you receive paid sick leave is capped at 80 hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

10. If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?

You may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave. You may take both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period thus covers the first ten workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act unless the you elect to use existing vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first ten workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent ten weeks under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act.

Please note that you can only receive the additional ten weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

11. Can my employer deny me paid sick leave if my employer gave me paid leave for a reason identified in the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act prior to the Act going into effect?

No. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act imposes a new leave requirement on employers that is effective beginning on April 1, 2020.

12. Is all leave under the FMLA now paid leave?

No. The only type of family and medical leave that is paid leave is expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act when such leave exceeds ten days. This includes only leave taken because the employee must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

13. Are the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements retroactive?

No.

14. How do I know whether I have “been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer” for purposes of expanded family and medical leave?

You are considered to have been employed by your employer for at least 30 calendar days if your employer had you on its payroll for the 30 calendar days immediately prior to the day your leave would begin. For example, if you want to take leave on April 1, 2020, you would need to have been on your employer’s payroll as of March 2, 2020.

If you have been working for a company as a temporary employee, and the company subsequently hires you on a full-time basis, you may count any days you previously worked as a temporary employee toward this 30-day eligibility period.

[1] If you are a Federal employee, you are eligible to take paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.  But only some Federal employees are eligible to take expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. Your eligibility will depend on whether you are covered under Title I or Title II of the Family Medical Leave Act. The DOL encourages Federal employees to discuss questions about their eligibility for expanded family and medical leave with their employers or with the Office of Personnel Management. Additional FAQs regarding public sector employers will be forthcoming.

[2] If you are a Federal employee, the State or local minimum wage would be used to calculate the wages owed to you only if the Federal agency that employs you has broad authority to set your compensation and has decided to use the State or local minimum wage.

*           *           *

The DOL also provided a Fact Sheet for Employers and one for employees. We expect the DOL to publish a workplace poster required for most employers later this week, along with additional fact sheets and more Q&A.

We are available to assist employers and answer questions related to the FFCRA and other pandemic-related concerns.

Gail E. Farb
gfarb@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2557

UPDATED: Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Paid Sick and Family Leave for COVID-19 Absences

This post was updated March 26 based on subsequent DOL guidance. Updates are shown in red. 

Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) to provide emergency family and medical leave broader than the current Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid sick leave to certain employees affected by COVID-19, as well as other provisions to help individuals and businesses handle impacts of the pandemic. It was signed into law shortly after its passage by the Senate on March 18, 2020. The new law will take effect on April 1, 2020 and expire on December 31, 2020.

The new leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act are summarized below under their respective Acts.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

New Expanded Family and Medical Leave: The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) amends the FMLA to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave for employees who are unable to work or telework because they need to care for a minor son or daughter if the child’s elementary or secondary school or place of care has been closed or the child care provider of the son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a Federal, State, or local authority. The leave may be taken between April 1 and December 31, 2020. (Note: this is the only form of FMLA leave that is required to be paid).

Covered Employers: Private employers with fewer than 500 employees at the time leave is taken and government employers are covered.  (Note: this is unlike other FMLA leave that requires 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year)

Eligible Employees: Employees who have been employed by the employer for at least 30 calendar days are eligible.

Rate of Pay:

  • The first 10 days of this leave may be unpaid.
  • After 10 days of leave, employees are paid at two-thirds of their regular rate for the usual number of scheduled hours. Special calculations are provided for employees who work variable hours.
  • Employees may choose to substitute accrued employer provided vacation, personal, medical or sick leave during the first 10 days of leave.
  • Payments made to employees for public health emergency leave are capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.

Notice:  In any case where the necessity for public health emergency leave is foreseeable, an employee shall provide the employer with such notice of leave as is practicable.

Restoration to Position: As with other FMLA leaves, employees must be restored to the  same or equivalent position at the end of leave, except employers with fewer than 25 employees are not required to restore the employee to the same or equivalent position at the end of leave if the employee’s position no longer exists due to economic or operating conditions caused by the coronavirus emergency and the employer makes reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position at the time and over a one-year period.

Exclusions and Exemptions:

  • Employers of employees who are healthcare providers or emergency responders may elect to exclude such employees from eligibility for paid leave.
  • The Secretary of Labor may exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees in certain dire circumstances.
  • To elect this small business exemption, employers should document why their businesses with fewer than 50 employees meet the criteria set forth by the U,S, Department of Labor (DOL), which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations.
  • Employers should not send any materials to the DOL when seeking a small business exemption for expanded family and medical leave
  • The DOL is to promulgate regulations that will address the process for requesting an exemption, as well as other issues.

Employer Liability: Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from private lawsuits alleging violations of the EFMLEA, but such employers would still be subject to actions by the Secretary of Labor. Individual liability and successor liability still apply.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

New Paid Sick Leave:

  • Covered employers are required to provide full-time employees with 80 hours of paid sick leave when the employee cannot work or telework for one of the following specified circumstances related to COVID-19, which we are colloquially referring to as a “Group 1” and “Group 2” triggering events because of the difference in pay requirements between the two groups:

Group 1

  1. subject to a government quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. advised by healthcare providers to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
  3. experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;

Group 2

  1. caring for an individual subject to a government quarantine order or advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine;
  2. caring for a son or daughter if the son or daughter’s school or place of care is closed or their child care providers are unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions; or
  3. experiencing substantially similar conditions as those specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
  • Part-time employees meeting the requirements above are entitled to the number of hours of paid sick time equal to the number of hours they work, on average, over a two-week period.
  • The amount of paid sick time available to an employee is determined by the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work, with the number of hours available to employees with varying schedules determined in the same manner as under the EFMLEA.
  • Employers may not require that employees search for or find a replacement employee to cover the hours during the employee’s use of emergency paid sick time.
  • Paid sick time terminates with the beginning of the next shift immediately following the termination of the need for paid sick time.
  • Paid sick time is not required to be paid out at termination of employment.
  • Paid sick time may be taken between April 1 and December 31, 2020.

Covered Employers: Private employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers are covered.

Eligible Employees: All employees who meet the criteria above regardless of length of employment are eligible for emergency paid sick leave.

Rates of Pay:

  • Where the employee takes leave for a “Group 1” reason, the amount of federal emergency sick pay is the greatest of the regular rate of pay, minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), or the state or local minimum wage, and the paid leave is capped at $511 per day, with $5,110 in the aggregate.
  • When the employee takes leave for a “Group 2” reason, the paid leave rate is 2/3 of the greatest of the amounts above, and is capped at $200 per day, with $2,000 in the aggregate.
  • Note: If an employee is taking expanded family and medical leave, the employee may take paid sick leave for the first ten days (2 weeks) of that leave period, or the employee may substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave the employee has under an employer’s policy. For the following ten weeks, the employee will be paid for leave at an amount no less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours normally scheduled to work. The regular rate of pay used to calculate this amount must be at or above the federal minimum wage, or the applicable state or local minimum wage. However, the employee will not receive more than $200 per day or $12,000 for the twelve weeks that include both paid sick leave (capped at $2,000) and expanded family and medical leave (capped at $10,000) when the employee is on leave to care for the employee’s child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Notice:

  • After the first workday (or portion thereof) for which an employee receives paid sick time, an employer may require the employee to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue receiving such leave.
  • The Secretary of Labor promulgated model notices regarding emergency paid sick leave, which must be posted by employers.  See our blog post for more information.

Employers with Existing Leave Policies:

  • Federal emergency paid sick leave is in addition to whatever sick leave is already offered by employers (including subject to state or local requirements).
  • Employers may not require employees to use employer provided paid leave before employees use new federal paid sick time.
  • There is no specific provision preventing employers from changing their leave programs after the law goes into effect, which is contrary to an earlier version of the bill.

Exclusions and Exemptions:

  • Employers of employees who are healthcare providers or emergency responders may elect to exclude such employees from eligibility for paid sick leave. (Note: the term “healthcare provider” is a defined term with a specialized meaning. See our recent post discussing that issue. 
  • The Secretary of Labor is empowered to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees under certain dire circumstances.

Employer Liability: A violation of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, including discriminating (or retaliating) against an employee for taking paid sick leave, filing a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying or preparing to testify in any such proceeding, is equivalent to a violation under the FLSA, and is subject to the same remedies: damages, an equal amount as liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, costs, and injunctive relief or reinstatement.

For more information about federal and state actions implemented to help businesses through the pandemic, including tax credits related to the new paid leaves, see our Business & Tax Blog.  And please stay tuned to our blog, including our general FAQ post about COVID-19, which will be updated periodically to reflect new agency guidance and legislation. For particular questions, we are available to help employers navigate through these turbulent times.

Williams Parker has launched a multidisciplinary task force of lawyers across the firm to advise on issues arising from the Coronavirus and to provide guidance for affected clients. This team is closely monitoring legal developments and guidance from federal, state, and local government and public health officials. For the latest updates, please visit our website.

Gail E. Farb
gfarb@williamsparker.com
(941) 552-2557