House of Representatives passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act

As our clients balance the health and safety of their employees during the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) we want to update them on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Act”).  On Saturday, March 14, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Act.  If the Senate approves the Act and it is signed by the White House, it becomes law.

The Act is intended to help workers take care of themselves, family members, or children who are home due to school or child care facility closings.  Employees will be eligible to receive paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave through December 31, 2020.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion

Applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.  Employees who have been employed for thirty (30) days or more are entitled to take up to twelve (12) weeks of job-protected leave:

  • If the presence of the employee could risk exposure of the coronavirus to other employees and the employee is unable to perform his/her job and comply with a health care provider’s recommendation;
  • To care for a family member who may have been exposed to the coronavirus or exhibits coronavirus symptoms; or
  • To care for a child whose school or child care facility has been closed due to the coronavirus.

This family and medical leave will be unpaid for the first fourteen (14) days, unless the employee chooses to substitute paid time off.  After the first fourteen (14) day period, employers will be required to provide employees with partially paid leave.  There are some exceptions for smaller businesses (fewer than 50 employees).

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees.  Employers will be required to provide job-protected paid sick leave to all employees to:

  • Self-isolate/quarantine because of a diagnosis of coronavirus;
  • Obtain medical care if they are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus;
  • Comply with a recommendation that the employee’s physical presence on the job would risk exposure of coronavirus to others;
  • Care for a sick family member who may have been exposed to the coronavirus or exhibits coronavirus symptoms; and
  • Care for a child whose school or child care facility has been closed due to the coronavirus.

Full-time employees will be entitled to eighty (80) hours of paid sick leave; part-time employees will be entitled to paid sick leave in the amount equal to the average amount of hours they work over a two-week period.  Leave entitlement is in addition to any paid sick leave already provided under the employer’s existing sick leave policy.  Employees are entitled to their regular rate of pay, unless such leave is taken for the purpose of caring for a sick family member or child who may have been exposed to the coronavirus or exhibits coronavirus symptoms.  In those circumstances, employees will receive two-third of their regular rate.  Failure to provide this emergency paid sick leave can result in penalties under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Employers will be able to recover some costs associated with the paid emergency family and medical leave and emergency sick leave through tax credits.

Our firm is monitoring the course of the draft legislation and will keep abreast of any and all changes. If you need to speak with an attorney about this, we invite you to contact Shelly Pagac, Sarah Amin, or Gaetan Alfano directly.

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