The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the world as we know it, both at home and in the workplace. To protect employees during this national crisis Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which takes effect April 2, 2020. It requires most employers to provide employees with expanded family and medical leave as a result of the COVID-19 epidemic. An employer may not fire or discipline an employee who takes paid sick leave under the new law. Employers who violate the FFCRA are liable for back pay, liquidated damages equal to the amount of back pay, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
What rights do I have under the FFCRA?
Generally speaking, the FFCRA requires that private employers with less than 500 employees must provide the following to employees:
- Two weeks of expanded family and medical leave, at the employee’s regular rate of pay, where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- Two weeks of expanded family and medical leave, at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay, because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or to care for a child whose school is closed; and,
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school is closed.
What private employers are “covered” and must follow the FFCRA?
- All private employers with fewer than 500 employees must follow the new law. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption to the FFCRA.
What pubLic employers must follow the FFCRA?
As explained by the Department of Labor, “most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was not amended by the FFCRA, and are therefore not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. However, federal employees covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act are covered by the paid sick leave provision.”1
Are all employees of private employers covered by the FFCRA eligible?
- Generally speaking, yes. Provided, however, that employers with over 500 employees are not presently covered by the FFCRA.
How long is leave permitted under the FFCRA?
- Full-time employees may receive up to two weeks of expanded family and medical leave;
- Part-time employees are eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period; and,
- Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child.
Do I have to give my employer notice?
- You should try. When leave under the FFCRA is “foreseeable”, employees should give advanced notice; and,
- Once leave is taken under the FFCRA, employers are permitted to require employees to follow “reasonable notice procedures” in order to continue receiving protection under the FFCRA.
What specific Coronavirus-related reasons qualify as a reason for leave under the FFCRA:
- If the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed;
- A government quarantine or isolation order related to the Coronavirus;
- A “health care provider” has told an employee to self-quarantine for reasons related to the Coronavirus;
- An employee is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- An employee is caring for an individual subject to a government quarantine or isolation order;
- An employee is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
How is my pay calculated while I’m on leave under the FFCRA?
- Employees whose leave is related to caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate over a 12-week period;
- Under most other FFCRA leave scenarios unrelated to school closings, employees taking leave under the FCRA are entitled to pay at either their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate over a 2-week period;
- Other scenarios (but also unrelated to school closings) allow for employees taking leave are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate over a 2-week period.
Once the FFCRA goes into effect on April 2, 2020, if you think your rights under the FFCRA have been violated, call us immediately for a free consultation.