EMPLOYMENT LAW NEWS
Coronavirus: U.S. House Passes Bill for Emergency Paid Leave
By Jana Bjorklund, GovDocs’ Senior Counsel, Employment Law
Published March 17, 2020
The bill — dubbed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — is currently under review in the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. House of Representatives this weekend passed legislation that includes emergency paid family and medical leave and emergency paid sick leave for employees of government employers, as well as employers with fewer than 500 employees.
The House made “technical corrections” to the bill Monday night.
The bill — dubbed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act — is now with the U.S. Senate. Lawmakers may change the bill and send it back to the House for further review, meaning a final version may look different than it does today.
The other options are that the Senate approves it as is or rejects it entirely. In any event, here’s a brief overview of the paid family medical leave and paid sick leave provisions of the legislation as proposed by the House as of Tuesday, March 17.
Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave
Under the proposed legislation, employees who have been employed for at least 30 days would be eligible for paid leave. They would not have to meet the requirements under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of (FMLA): having worked 1,250 hours, being employed for one year, and one of 50 employees working in a 75-mile radius in order to be eligible for leave.
Eligible employees could take up to 12 weeks of leave under the bill. The first 10 days would be unpaid leave. Employees may apply any current paid time off to the unpaid days, but this would be at the employee’s discretion — employers may not require employees to do so.
The remaining leave would be paid leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate.
The eligible reasons for emergency paid family and medical leave are related specifically to COVID-19. As it currently stands, the bill allows paid leave for employees who are unable to work or telework due to the need to care for their minor child because of a school closure or childcare provider loss due to a public health emergency.
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Employees taking leave must be reinstated to their regular position as required under federal FMLA. There are exceptions for employers with fewer than 25 employees when certain conditions are met.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
The bill also has an emergency paid sick leave act provision that applies to all employees regardless of their length of employment. It applies to the same employers: government employers and private employers with less than 500 employees.
Full-time employees are eligible for 80 hours of paid sick leave, which can be taken immediately. However, part-time employees are eligible for paid sick leave in a number of hours equal to the number of hours that the employee works on average over a two-week period.
The amount of paid sick leave under the bill is in addition to any paid time off policy an employer currently maintains. Like the paid family and medical leave portion of the legislation, the eligible reasons for paid sick leave are related to COVID-19.
If the employee is unable to work or telework, the proposed eligible reasons for paid sick days for coronavirus-related absences are as follows:
- For employee to comply with a federal, state, or local order quarantine or self-isolation due to COVID-19
- For employee to comply with an order by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19
- Employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis
- To care for a family member subject to a federal, state or local order to quarantine or self-isolate or due to COVID-19 or an order by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 related concerns
- To care for employee’s son or daughter whose school is closed, or childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions
Employers of an employee who is a health care provider or an emergency responder may elect to exclude such employees from coverage.
Employees must be paid their regular rate of pay, capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for absences due to their own coronavirus-related absences. If their absence is to care for a family member or child, the employee is eligible for two-thirds of their regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate.
Final Notes on Emergency Paid Leave
It is expected that the Secretary of Labor will issue a poster that will need to be displayed in the workplace regarding these requirements. GovDocs will carry this poster when, and if, it becomes available.
If eventually passed, the bill would be effective 15 days after President Trump signs the final version and remain in effect through Dec. 31, 2020.
Employers should keep an eye on Senate proceedings to see happens as lawmakers in the upper chamber review the bill.
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