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UPDATE: THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE IS NOW LAW

Yesterday, President Trump signed into law "The Families First Coronavirus Response Act."  The Act provides a number of measures meant to ease the burden on individuals resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, including employees impacted by COVID-19 at their jobs.  Specifically, the Act provides for free COVID-19 testing, expanded funding for food security programs, increased funding for Medicaid and state unemployment insurance, and paid sick and family leave for individuals that work at companies with 500 or fewer employees. This update focuses on the Act's provisions relating to paid sick and family leave and the implications for employers.

The Act imposes certain paid leave requirements on employers in an attempt to replace a significant share of lost wages for employees who are forced to take leave as a result of COVID-19-related illnesses, quarantine or caregiving responsibilities. Noteworthy provisions of the paid leave portions of the Act are as follows:

PAID SICK LEAVE

  • Full-time employees who are absent for one of the following reasons are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay (part-time employees receive a lesser time based on their average hours worked):

    • The employee is subject to a government-ordered quarantine or is caring for someone who is subject to a government-ordered quarantine;

    • The employee has been advised to self-quarantine by a health-care professional or is caring for someone who has been advised to self-quarantine;

    • The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis; or

    • The employee is caring for a child whose school has closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • These paid sick-leave requirements apply to employers with 500 or fewer employees

  • Employees are entitled to their entire salary during the paid leave, up to a maximum amount of $511 per day

  • Employers may not require employees to use other types of paid leave prior to utilizing paid sick leave provided for in the Act.

It should also be noted that the Department of Labor has the authority to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the paid sick-leave requirements when the imposition of the requirements would "jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern."  It also has the authority to exempt health care providers and emergency responders.

PAID FAMILY LEAVE

  • The Act expands the Family Medical Leave Act's protections to employees who are unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for their child because the child's school or place of care has been closed or their child-care provider is unavailable as a result of COVID-19 in the following ways:

    • The first 10 days of an eligible employee's leave may be unpaid, but the employee can use any paid leave that s/he has accrued as of that time;

    • If the leave extends beyond 10 days, then the remaining leave must be paid at a rate of 2/3 the employee's regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day ("Paid Family Leave"); and

    • The total value of Paid Family Leave that an employee can receive is $10,000.

  • The Paid Family Leave requirements only apply to employers with 500 or fewer employees (health care providers and emergency responders are also exempt from the Paid Family Leave requirements)

  • Only employees who have been employed at least 30 days are eligible to receive Paid Family Leave under the Act

  • These leave requirements end on December 31, 2020.

The Act indicates it will become effective no later than 15 days after it is enacted, which is April 2, 2020. The Department of Labor is required under the Act to issue a Model Notice within seven days, and Guidelines, within 15 days, of the enactment of the Act.  Goldberg Kohn will issue an updated client alert when we learn more from the Department of Labor. The above is only a highlight of certain provisions contained in the Act, and the law is complex.  If you have specific questions about the Act, or any other employment-related questions about COVID-19 and its impact on your business, please contact a Goldberg Kohn Labor and Employment attorney.



March 19, 2020

Questions? Please Contact:

Michael Sullivan
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Kristen Jones
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Jon Klinghoffer
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Meredith Kirshenbaum
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David Morrison
312.201.3972
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Labor & Employment Practice Group
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