Families First Coronavirus Response Act and New Department of Labor Regulations

On March 18, 2020 the federal government enacted the FFCRA in an ongoing effort to respond to challenges employers face due to the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic. On April 1, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor issued regulations to implement the two paid leave provisions of the FFCRA: the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. These provisions of the FFCRA went into effect on April 1 and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020. 

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act generally requires all covered employers (certain public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees) to provide all employees: 

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay if an employee is unable to work (or telework) because:The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has officially been enacted. But what does it mean for workers and businesses who may fall under the law?
    1. the employee is subject to a local, State, or Federal COVID-19 quarantine or isolation order;
    2. the employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine as a result of COVID-19 concerns; or
    3. the employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate) if the employee is unable to work (or telework) because: 
    1. the employee is providing care for an individual subject to Federal, State, or local quarantine orders or pursuant to the advice of a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns; 
    2. the employee is caring for a child (under 18 years of age) because the school or child care provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 concerns; or
    3. the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act 

A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days: 

  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work (or telework) because the employee is caring for a child (under 18 years of age) because the school or child care provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 concerns.

Small-Business Exemption

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees can claim an exemption to the FFCRA if the paid leave requirements would jeopardize their viability.

FFCRA and The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

What leave and coverage must employers provide to their employees and families?

Highlights Of The Department of Labor’s New Regulations

Below are some of the highlights from the Department of Labor’s new regulations which are of particular importance to employers:

  • Employees who are furloughed or laid-off are not eligible for FFCRA leave.
  • Employees can take intermittent or reduced schedule leave in order to provide care for a child because of school or daycare closure.
  • Under FFCRA, “caring for an individual” includes immediate family members, an individual who regularly resides with the employee, or a person whose relationship with an employee creates an expectation that the employee would provide care.
  • An employer can permit an employee to substitute paid time off under existing employer policies to make up the final 1/3 of wages when the leave requested is to provide care .