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Employees of essential businesses who have remained open during the Coronavirus Emergency may now be entitled to paid leave if they miss work for COVID-19 related reasons.
On March 18, 2020 the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
The Act gives businesses, with fewer than 500 employees, funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The law is intended to enable employer to keep their workers on the payroll, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.
The Act provides that employees of eligible employers can receive two weeks of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis. An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions (as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) can receive two weeks of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s regular pay. An employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, may in some instances receive up to an additional ten weeks of expanded paid family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.
Small business with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the leave requirements relating to school closures.
If the employer is closed for business and/or has furloughed their workforce due to the virus, they are not required to comply.
Employees who have already exhausted their FMLA leave entitlement for the year, may not be eligible.
As always, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who request leave or otherwise try to exercise their rights under the Act.
The Department of Labor is in the process of writing regulations related to the ACT. Enforcement begins at/around April 18, 2020 and the Act expires December 31, 2020.