As the Coronavirus Spreads, So Does the Legislation

Whitney Brieck

You may have already heard that the second wave of federal coronavirus legislation — the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—makes COVID-19 testing free and makes $1 billion available to states for unemployment benefits. The new legislation also impacts employers with 500 employees or less in several different ways, beginning April 1 and lasting through December 2020. Reach out for counsel on how these new laws apply to any specific circumstance you are facing—or may be facing soon.

COVID-19 Family and Medical Leave:

  • Extends FMLA 12-week job protection to employees caring for children when schools are closed or childcare is unavailable
  • Must be employed at least 30 days before leave taken to become eligible
  • Leave shall be 10 days unpaid followed by paid leave at 2/3 the regular rate, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave:

  • Employer must provide up to 2 weeks of paid sick leave (at a rate depending on the circumstance) for employees who are:
    • Subject to governmental quarantine order, or caring for someone who is
    • Directed to self-quarantine by a doctor, or caring for someone who is
    • Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a diagnosis
    • Caring for a child due to school closure or childcare unavailability due to COVID-19 precautions
  • Employees are immediately eligible if they qualify
  • Employers cannot force an employee to take regular PTO first, and cannot require an employee to find their own replacement
  • Employers must soon post a conspicuous notice about these benefits that will be prepared by the Secretary of Labor in a few days
  • Violations will constitute a federal wage claim, with associate penalties

Possible exceptions may include businesses with fewer than 50 employees (if providing benefits would jeopardize viability of the business as a going concern), businesses with less than 25 employees (if certain other conditions are met), and healthcare providers and emergency responders. Employers (and self-employed) may receive certain tax credits for any benefits provided.