On March 14, 2020, the House of Representatives passed House of Representatives Bill 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The day before, President Trump tweeted his support of the bill, saying he would sign it when received. The Senate will likely vote on its version of the bill sometime this week.
As passed by the House, the bill temporarily amends the Family and Leave Act, provides emergency paid sick leave, and offers tax credits to certain employers who provide emergency paid sick leave and leave under the temporary provisions of the FMLA.
If passed, the bill would go into effect within 15 days of enactment and last through the end of 2020.
The Act would apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees but allows the Department of Labor to issue regulations exempting employers with fewer than 50 employees and some health care employers and emergency responders. It also covers government employers.
Employees who have worked for a covered employer for at least 30 days prior to leave would be eligible for leave. Coverage would not depend upon whether employees work at a facility that employees 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
Eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave at 2/3 their normal pay rate (the first 14 days may be unpaid), with job protection if they are 1) complying with a quarantine and cannot work remotely; 2) caring for a quarantined family member; or 3) caring for a child if the child’s school has closed as a result of a public health emergency. Employees may use vacation and sick leave to cover the first 14 days, but employers may not require them to use these time off benefits. The paid leave is job protected as usual.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Again, these provisions apply only to employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers. All employees, without regard to their time on the job, would be eligible to this paid sick leave if they 1) isolate themselves after a coronavirus diagnosis; 2) need the leave to be tested and for prevention if they have the virus symptoms; 3) need to care for a quarantined family member who has been diagnosed, exhibits symptoms of the virus or needs medical care as a result; or 4) must care for a child if the child’s school has closed or the child’s care provider is not available because of the pandemic.
The benefit equals 80 hours of leave at employees’ usual pay rate. Those who must be absent to care for an eligible family member or because a child’s school or care provider are not available would receive 2/3 of their usual pay rate. Part-time employees would receive a pro rata amount of leave.
Notice of these employee rights must be posted, and employers are prohibited from changing existing sick leave and other policies to avoid the effect of the new benefits. These provisions would also go into effect within 15 days of enactment and last through the end of 2020.
Under certain conditions, it is possible for employers to recover 100% of the costs associated with these increased benefits through refundable tax credits.
If you have questions about this or any other legal issue, please feel free to contact our office.