On March 19, 2020, the senate passed, and the president signed into law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The new law has many provisions that affect you as an employer. The bill provides:
- Expanded FMLA Coverage For School Closures—The bill dramatically expands the FMLA on an emergency basis. Under the old law, the FMLA only applied to companies with 50 or more employees. Under the revisions, the FMLA imposes leave requirements on any employer with less than 500 employees. Those employers must provide up to 12 weeks of job protected leave to employees that are unable to work so that they can care for a child if the child’s school or day care is closed due to COVID-19. An employee qualifies if they have been employed for at least 30 days prior to the need for the leave. The bill allows the Secretary of Labor to exempt small businesses (those with less than 50 employees) if allowing the leave would jeopardize the viability of the business. The first 10-days of the FMLA leave is unpaid. Thereafter, the employer must pay 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, but no more than $200/day or $10,000 total per employee. Employers must generally reinstate employees after the expiration of the FMLA leave. This obligation is lifted for employers with fewer than 25 employees.
- Sick Leave—The bill allows an employee to take paid sick leave if they 1.) are subject to quarantine; 2.) have COVID-19 symptoms; 3.) are caring for someone with COVID-19 symptoms; or 4.) are caring for a child due to a school’s closure. Any employer with less than 500 employees must provide full-time employees with 80 hours of sick time. The law caps the daily reimbursement per employee to $511 per day and $5,110 total to care for themselves and $200 per day and $2,000 total to care for others.
- Federal Funding for Cost—The law provides for Social Security tax credits to reimburse employers for the cost of the FMLA and sick leave.
The bill also imposes notice requirements that obligate employers to inform employees of these new rights. The government is burdened with drafting those notices for the employer’s circulation. We’ll update you once those are published.
For now, all employers should familiarize themselves with the new laws, which go into effect 15 days after the president’s signature (April 2nd). As always, contact us with any questions.