On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law as one of the first major federal legislative initiatives in response to COVID-19. In addition to addressing insurance coverage of COVID-19 testing, nutrition assistance for students, and unemployment benefits, the FFCRA also requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave for reasons specifically related to COVID-19. It also expands paid family and medical leave for COVID-19 – related reasons. The new requirements for paid sick leave go into effect on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, and remain in effect through December 31, 2020.
On March 24, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) released much anticipated guidance for employers. Here are the key takeaways with respect to paid leave requirements:
Basis for Paid Leave
The requirements for paid leave generally apply to private employers with fewer than 500 employees, and public employers, with some exceptions. Employees are entitled to paid leave if the employee is unable to work (or telework) because the employee:
- is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- is caring for an individual subject to quarantine or isolation order as described in (1) and (2) above;
- is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
- is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
Length of Leave
The amount of leave to which a qualifying employee is entitled depends upon the reason for which the leave is taken:
- For reasons (1)-(4) and (6), above, qualifying full-time employees are eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) of leave. A qualifying part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a 2-week period.
- For reason (5), qualifying full-time employees are eligible for expanded paid family and medical leave, up to 12 weeks of leave at 40 hours a week. A qualifying part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over a 12-week period.
Calculation of Pay
As with the amount of leave to which an employee is entitled, the rate of pay depends upon the reason for which the leave is taken:
- For reasons (1)-(3), qualifying employees are to be paid at their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher. The amount paid may not exceed $511 per day and $5,110 total (over the 2-week period).
- For reasons (4) and (6), qualifying employees are to be paid at two thirds their regular rate or two thirds of the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher. The amount paid may not exceed $200 per day and $2,000 total (over the 2-week period).
- For reason (5), qualifying employees shall be paid at two thirds their regular rate or two thirds of the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher. The amount paid may not exceed $200 per day and $12,000 total (over the 12-week period).
As a benefit to qualifying employers providing paid leave under the FFCRA, the Act entitles employers to a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes leave under the FFCRA for a qualifying reason, up to the applicable payment caps. Employers may also be entitled to tax credits for amounts paid or incurred to maintain an employee’s health insurance coverage.
Employers should carefully consider whether the new paid leave requirements under the FFCRA apply to them. If employers are required to provide paid leave under the FFCRA, employers are required to conspicuously post notice of the FFCRA’s benefits on their premises. Furthermore, employers who fail to adhere to the FFCRA’s requirements may be subject to enforcement under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Allison Carroll is an attorney with the law firm of Cantey Hanger LLP. Her practice focuses on commercial litigation and internal investigations on behalf of both civic and religious organizations. For more information call 817-877-2821 or visit www.canteyhanger.com.
This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or substitute for consulting an attorney. We recommend that you discuss your particular situation with your attorney when you need legal advice.