| On Thursday, March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“the Act”). This Act provides for family leave for certain employees affected by the COVID-19 virus, as well as paid sick leave under certain circumstances.
Emergency Sick Leave
· Private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees (along with governmental entities) will have to provide employees who cannot work (even remotely) with paid sick time off if the employee is: (i) an employee subject to a coronavirus quarantine or isolation order; (ii) an employee who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to coronavirus concerns; (iii) an employee who is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and is seeking a medical diagnosis; (iv) an employee caring for an individual described in (i) or (ii) above; (v) an employee caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or the child care provider of the child is unavailable, due to coronavirus precautions; or (vi) an employee who is experiencing any other substantially similar condition.
· Full-time employees are to receive eighty (80) hours of sick leave, and part-time employees are granted leave equivalent to their average hours worked in a two-week period, with the sick leave in either instance being available for immediate use regardless of the employee’s tenure at the employer.
· Employees taking leave for themselves will have to be paid at least their normal wage or the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage, whichever is greater. Employees taking time off to care for family members must be paid at two-thirds of the foregoing rate.
· Sick leave is capped at $511.00 per day and $5,110.00 in the aggregate for leave taken in categories (i) through (iii) described above (i.e., on one’s own behalf), and capped at $200.00 per day and $2,000.00 in the aggregate for leave taken in categories (iv) through (vi) (i.e., to take care of another).
· Wages required to be paid under the emergency sick leave provisions will not be subject to the 6.2 percent social security payroll tax typically paid by employers on employees’ wages.
· An employer cannot require an employee to use any other available paid leave before using the sick time.
· Employers will be prohibited from (i) requiring employees to find replacements to cover their hours during time off; or (ii) discharging or discriminating against employees for requesting paid sick leave or filing a complaint against the employer related to such.
· Employers will have to post a notice containing information regarding the emergency sick leave provisions. The Department of Labor will promulgate this poster within seven (7) days of the law’s enactment.
· The above provisions will take effect no later than 15 days after the Act is enacted, and expire on December 31, 2020.
Emergency Family Leave
· Private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees (along with governmental entities), will have to provide up to 12 weeks of leave for employees who have been on the job for at least 30 days, and who are unable to work (even remotely) because they have to care for a minor child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or if the child care provider of that child is unavailable due to a coronavirus emergency.
· The first ten (10) days of leave may be unpaid. However, an employee can opt to use accrued vacation days or other available paid leave for those days. For subsequent days of leave, employees will receive a benefit from their employers equal to at least two-thirds of their normal pay rate. The paid leave is capped at $200.00 per day and $10,000.00 in the aggregate.
· Generally, the employee on leave must be restored to his or her prior position; however, this requirement does not apply to employers with fewer than twenty-five (25) employees if the position held by the employee on leave no longer exists due to economic conditions or other changes in the employer’s operating conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the employer makes reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position.
· Wages required to be paid under the emergency family leave provisions will not be subject to the 6.2 percent social security payroll tax typically paid by employers on employees’ wages.
As with the emergency sick leave provisions of the Act, these protections will expire on December 31, 2020 unless they are renewed.
Employer Tax Relief
The Act also provides tax credits to employers who provide paid sick leave and/or paid emergency family leave benefits pursuant to the law. Employers should speak to their tax advisor as to the tax ramifications of the Act.
Special Note for Small Employers
The Department of Labor is authorized to issue regulations which exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the paid leave requirements of the Act “when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern”. Feather Law Firm will continue to monitor this law and will update our clients and colleagues as necessary.
If you have any questions regarding this new law, please do not hesitate to contact Feather Law Firm, P.C.