Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Claims
Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on March 19, 2020 in response to fears about employers laying off employees on a large scale due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The law primarily impacts employers with fewer than 500 employees and its provisions are set to go in effect on April 1, 2020 and will remain in effect through December 31, 2020. In general, the law affords employees the following rights:
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee cannot work because he or she is quarantined or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate where the employee cannot work because of the need to care for an individual subject to quarantine or where the employee must care for a child whose school (or childcare provider) is closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
- An additional 10 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee cannot work due to the need to care for a child whose school (or childcare provider) is closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
An employee is considered to be quarantined when he or she is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a medical provider to self-quarantine.
There are caps on the paid leave amounts. For an employee subject to a quarantine order or for those who are experiencing symptoms, the maximum per day is $511, or $5,110 over the entire sick leave period. If leave is due to caring for an individual who is sick or for a child whose school has closed, the maximum per day is $200, or $2,000 over the two-week period. If twelve weeks of paid sick leave are taken, the maximum amount is $12,000.
It should be noted that businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from the leave requirement related to school closings if the business can show that the law would jeopardized the viability of the business. While the Department of Labor has not clarified what this means exactly, it is clear that the burden will be on the small business to demonstrate that its business would be jeopardized if it satisfied the requirements of the FFCRA.
Employees who wish to take paid sick leave under the FFCRA should provide their employers with documentation. Such documentation may include a letter from a physician or a notice of a school closing from the school or a local newspaper. The Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service will likely provide further guidance on what documentation is required in the coming months.
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