An illustration of the coronavirus created by the CDC, when viewed through an electron microscope

On Friday evening, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, H.R. 6201, which expands protections under the FMLA and expands paid leave time to employees impacted by the coronavirus crisis.  Though the bill still has to make it through the Senate, some of the key components are expected to remain the same.  The new provisions apply only to employers with fewer than 500 employees.

FMLA Expansion

The bill creates a new federal emergency paid leave benefit mandate and defines “eligible individual,” as someone who was working thirty days before they were impacted by COVID-19.  Eligible workers will be entitled to benefits if they must take 14 or more days of leave from work due to a qualifying COVID-19-related reason. The bill defines an “emergency leave day” as a day in which an individual is unable to work due to one of four qualifying reasons related to COVID-19:

  1. the worker has a current diagnosis of COVID-19;
  2. the worker is quarantined (including self-imposed quarantine), at the instruction of a health care provider, employer, or government official, to prevent the spread of COVID19;
  3. the worker is caring for another person who has COVID-19 or who is under a quarantine related to COVID-19; or
  4. the worker is caring for a child or other individual who is unable to care for them self due to the COVID-19-related closing of their school, childcare facility, or other care program.

The bill provides workers with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.  The first 14 days may be unpaid however employees may use personal or sick leave during that 14-day period.  The employee will be able to use that time if they or a family member have been quarantined or to respond to school closures.  After the first 14 days of unpaid leave, the employee will be entitled to two-thirds of their average monthly earnings, up to a cap of $4,000.  The bill reduces the number of days an employee needs to work to 30 days as opposed to 12 months or 1250 hours under the FMLA to be eligible.  The bill also expands the definition of family member and provides job restoration protection.  Employees will be entitled to these benefits for leaves that occur from January 19, 2020 (the date of the first U.S. COVID-19 diagnosis) through one year after the bill’s enactment.

Paid Sick Leave

Employers will be required to provide full-time employees with 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave for specific circumstances related to COVID-19 (paid sick leave days to cover school closures due to a public health emergency, when an employer is closed due to public health emergency, or if you or a family member is quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency, etc.).  Part-time employees will be entitled to paid sick time based on the number of hours they worked on average over a 2-week period.

These programs will operate in coordination with other relevant benefits and leave programs, including any rights provided under state or local paid leave benefits laws, and any greater benefits provided per a collective bargaining agreement.  For smaller employers, tax credits will be provided to help offset the cost of the paid leave benefits.

The bill has majority support in the House and the President has said he will sign it.  It still must make it through the Senate but is expected to find majority support there as well.  Though there are likely to be changes, employers should expect the bill to be similar to its present form and should act accordingly by reviewing their existing plans to ensure alignment before the bill goes into effect within 15 days of its enactment.

For more resources please visit our Coronavirus Update page.

Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.

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