New Protections for Workers Under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Last week, the United States legislature passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This new law provides some much needed relief for workers who are out of work because they or their family members have contracted COVID-19, or because they do not have child care due to school and daycare closures. Below is a summary of what rights you may have under the new law.

 

What does the new law provide?

  • 10 Paid Sick Days for full-time workers
    • You receive 100% of your pay (up to $511 per day, up to a total of $5,110) for 10 days if you are quarantined or if you are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis
    • You receive 2/3 of your pay (up to $200 per day, up to a total of $2,000) if you are caring for another individual who is quarantined or because of illness, or your child’s school or child care is closed and you do not have another child care provider
    • If you are a part time employee, you are eligible for the number of hours of leave that you work on average over a two week period
  • 12 Weeks Paid Family Leave
    • Full-time employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave at 40 hours per week. During that time, eligible employees will receive 2/3 of their pay (up to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate) where the employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
    • If you are a part-time employee, you are eligible for leave for the number of hours that you are normally scheduled to work over that period.
    • The first two weeks can be unpaid, or dovetailed with the paid sick days described above to cover the gap.
    • This provision is only applicable if you have been employed for at least 30 calendar days

 

Who is Covered?

  • Public agencies, including federal, state and local agencies
  • Private employers with under 500 employees
    • Employer provide the pay and can get a credit or refund through payroll taxes
  • All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave, but you must have been employed for at least 30 days to be eligible for the additional 10 weeks of paid family leave.
  • Exceptions?
    • Under the law, the Secretary of Labor can exempt employers with 50 or fewer employees from the leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the viability of the business is compromised. However, the process for obtaining an exemption is unclear but guidance is expected in April 2020.
    • An employer or the Department of Labor can also exempt healthcare providers and emergency responders

 

If I Take the Child Care Leave, Does My Employer Have to Reinstate Me?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) were the main leave laws applicable to California employees prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under those laws, if you take protected leave, your employer is required to reinstate you to you original position or an equivalent one when you return to work. Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, there is a possibility that your employer does not have to return you to your same job if your employer employs fewer than 25 employees.

 

When Does This Start?

  • The provisions go into effect April 2, 2020 (or sooner). The protections end December 31, 2020.

 

What if I Have Other Sick Leave Available To Me?

Your employer may not require you to use other paid leave before the paid sick leave provided in the Families First Coronavirus Act.

 

Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me for Taking Sick Leave?

The law provides that it is illegal for an employer to discharge, discipline or discriminate against any employer who takes the sick leave provided by the Act.

 

Changes to the law are happening on a daily basis in response to COVID-19. We will continue to post updates, but if you have questions about your employment situation and would like to speak with an attorney, please contact our offices. Our physical office is closed, but attorneys are available for phone and Zoom consultations.