By: Peter R. Siegel, Esq.
As many of you know, last Wednesday President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”), a bipartisan emergency response to the unprecedented economic distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (the “Coronavirus”). Please note that this new law goes into effect in
TEN DAYS . Its intended purpose is to offer certain relief through, among other things, a temporary guarantee of paid leave for eligible employees under a delineated set of circumstances. Although the Act also includes additional measures designed to stimulate the economy (such as the expansion of food assistance programs, unemployment insurance benefits and employer tax credits), all employers need to consider (1) modifying current HR processes and policies, and (2) formulating an appropriate (and legal) response to employees’ Coronavirus-related inquiries and needs. (April 2, 2020
You need to know that the Act temporarily expands the pre-existing protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (this part of the Act is referred to as the “Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act” or “EFMLA”) and also mandates the provision of paid sick leave benefits to be used for Coronavirus-related reasons (this part of the Act is referred to as the “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” or the “EPSLA”).
employees in need of an extended leave of absence as a result of the Coronavirus will now be entitled to additional leave benefits beyond those which have already been provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The following is a brief summary of the rules, thresholds and prerequisites for leave under EFMLA: (1) the leave obligations under EFMLA expire on December 31, 2020, (2) only employers with With respect to EFMLA, fewer than 500 employees are subject to EFMLA, (3) only employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days will be eligible for EFMLA,
(4) eligible employees will be entitled to 12 weeks of leave for a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency” (i.e., the Coronavirus), (5) the “qualifying need” is limited to circumstances where the subject employee is unable to work (or telework) in order to care for a child under the age of 18 if the child’s school, place of care or child care provider is closed as a result of the Coronavirus, and (6) the first 10 days of leave may be unpaid, the employee may elect to use accrued paid time off during the initial 10-day period, and paid leave (in an amount equal to no less than 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, subject to certain monetary caps) is required after the conclusion of the initial 10-day period.
, certain employees will now be eligible for paid sick leave under the following terms: (1) the leave obligations under EPSLA expire on December 31, 2020, (2) only employers with As for EPSLA fewer than 500 employees are subject to EPSLA, (3) leave may only be used in situations where the employee is subject to Coronavirus-related quarantine or isolation, the employee has been advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine due to Coronavirus-related concerns, the employee is experiencing symptoms related to the Coronavirus and is seeking medical diagnosis, the employee is caring for an individual who has been ordered to undergo quarantine or isolation or has otherwise been ordered to self-quarantine or self-isolate, the employee is caring for a child because of closings to the child’s school, place of care or child care provider, or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as dictated by the federal government, (4) full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave, (5) part-time employees are entitled to a number of hours equal to the number of hours that they work, on average, over a two-week period, (6) unused leave does not carry-over to the following year and need not be paid out upon termination of employment, (7) leave under EPSLA is available for immediate use, (8) paid sick leave benefits are subject to monetary caps, and (9) employers may not require an employee to use other paid leave previously provided to employees prior to using leave under EPSLA.
The newly-enacted law is only days’ old. Obviously, this summary is a mere overview of the Act and its direct impact on companies with fewer than 500 employees. It neither contemplates every possible scenario which will inevitably arise over the next weeks and months, nor does it address potential applicability of state-specific and local laws which may or may not be relevant depending upon the location of a particular employer. Please understand that both EFMLA and EPSLA are somewhat nuanced and further analysis of all applicable provisions needs to be conducted in order to determine the full extent of an employer’s obligations.
Do not hesitate to reach out to Greenspoon Marder LLP’s excellent Labor and Employment Group and let us help as we navigate together through this difficult time. We welcome the opportunity to be of service.