Late Wednesday night, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) as part of the ever-changing response to the novel coronavirus. Although the FFCRA is a broad attempt to lessen the burden of the virus on Americans, employers should be most attuned to the FFCRA’s impact on paid sick leave. The FFCRA requires all employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide paid sick leave to any employee who is not working because of a qualifying emergency related to the coronavirus (some exemptions apply). Employees qualify for the paid sick leave if they are unable to work because of:

1) a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or because the employee is caring for someone under such an order;
2) advice from a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
3) symptoms of COVID-19 for which the employee is seeking a medical diagnosis;
4) the need to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed because of COVID-19 concerns; or
5) symptoms caused by a substantially similar condition.

Full-time employees experiencing a qualifying emergency are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave, while part-time employees will receive leave based on the average number of hours worked in a two-week period. Employers are required to provide this paid sick leave in addition to any other existing paid leave they provided before the enactment of the FFCRA and cannot require employees to use other paid lead before using the FCRRA-provided leave. However, if an employer is already providing sick leave to cover coronavirus-related absences, additional leave is not required. The maximum amount of pay during the leave varies based on the reason for the leave, ranging from $200 to $511 per day.

The FFCRA also expands the Family Medical Leave Act to provide leave for a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” Like paid sick leave, this new provision will apply to employers with less than 500 employees, although employers can request an exception if the viability of their business is at risk (additional exemptions may apply). The first 10 days of this leave may be unpaid (unless the employee is using other leave during this time), but the remainder of the leave, up to 12 weeks, is paid leave. There are specific calculations and a cap per day and in the aggregate.

The FFCRA also includes credits related to the employer’s portion of certain payroll taxes.
Although certain aspects of the FFCRA remain unclear, we anticipate implementing guidance from the Department of Labor soon and will be available to answer any of your questions. The law will go into effect on April 2, 2020.

Bressler’s COVID-19 Task Force will provide clients with the resources required to develop and implement legal and operational policies and procedures, as well as business strategies to help navigate the pandemic and beyond.

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