On March 18, 2020, a stimulus package was signed into law to help ease the burden coronavirus (COVID-19) has inflicted on the United States economy. The Act amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 by adding benefits relating to coronavirus. Referred to as the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” one of the key components of the policy is that it would give some workers two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family leave. It also expands Medicaid and unemployment benefits. However, it applies only to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and the workers or their family members must be infected or told to go into quarantine. Provisions of the Act will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.The Department of Labor has provided a helpful guide sheet on employee’s rights under the Act, which can be accessed here.
Who qualifies under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?Employees are generally eligible if: (1) they have been exposed to the virus; (2) if they are caring for a sick family member; or (3) if school or day care closures require them to stay home and care for a child under 18. Individuals who work for a company with more than 500 employees are not eligible for the paid sick and family leave offered by this bill. Conversely, individuals who work for a company with fewer than 50 employees are eligible. However, the company’s owner may be able to file for an exemption from the Department of Labor.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act gives employees who test positive for coronavirus two weeks of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s salary. The pay is capped at 80 hours for full-time employees and at up to $511 per day. Part-time employees must be granted the amount of hours equal to the number of hours that the employee works, on average, over a two-week period.In instances where the employee is not afflicted with coronavirus but a family member is, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act allows for up to ten additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67% of the employee’s salary. The pay is capped at $200 per day.
Notably, the paid sick time offered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act must be granted in addition to any preexisting paid leave benefits. Moreover, the employer cannot modify its existing paid leave policy as a means of avoiding this obligation. The paid sick time must be made available for immediate use by an impacted employee, regardless of the length of the employee’s employment. Additionally, the employer cannot require that an employee first use other paid leave benefits.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also creates a discrimination claim which makes it unlawful for any employer to discharge, discipline, or discriminate in any other manner against an employee who takes leave in accordance with the Act and has “filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to [the] Act (including a proceeding that seeks enforcement of [the] Act), or has testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding.”An employer who violates the Act is considered to have failed to pay minimum wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and is subject to the penalties of the same.
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