The U.S. Department of Labor is taking action to ensure eligible workers can care for themselves and family members during the Coronavirus pandemic. Under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), effective through December 31, 2020, many employers must expand paid sick and personal leave for COVID-19-related reasons. For example, eligible employees could be entitled to two weeks of fully paid sick leave and an additional ten weeks of benefits to care for loved ones or children during school closures.
Even if your employer refused to provide Coronavirus leave, staying safe, preventing the spread of COVID-19, and caring for your children are priorities during this crisis. An experienced federal wage and labor attorney at McClanahan Powers, PLLC may help quarantined workers determine if they’re eligible for FFCRA benefits and, if so, recover back pay for wrongfully denied sick and family leave. In addition, our Virginia & D.C. virtual office is open and ready to assist employees and businesses navigating the FFCRA. Call us at 703-520-1326 or contact us online today.
What is the Family First Coronavirus Response Act?
As the name suggested, the FFCRA addresses the immediate health and personal concerns of workers impacted by COVID-19. The Act provides expanded sick, and family leave to employees not otherwise covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In addition, eligible employees may qualify for the following three significant benefits:
- COVID-19 Illness & Quarantine Leave – Up to 80 hours (two weeks) of sick leave at 100 percent the employee’s regular pay rate if he/she is quarantined pursuant to federal, state, local, or doctor’s orders, he/she was diagnosed with COVID-19, or he/she is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical care
- Caretaker Leave for Family COVID-19 Illness & Quarantine – Up to 80 hours (two weeks) of partial pay – 2/3rds the employee’s regular rate – if the employee is unable to work because he/she (1) must care for someone subject to legal quarantine due to COVID-19; (2) must care for a child under the age of 18 whose school is closed due to COVID-19; and/or (3) has symptoms of a condition substantially similar to COVID-19.
- Childcare & Homeschooling Leave – Employees may take another ten weeks of leave at 2/3rds their regular rate if they must care for a child under 14 or with special needs whose school or child care center is closed due to COVID-19
Employees must notify their employers as soon as possible if they intend to use these benefits, and employers may impose specific administrative follow-up requirements before releasing these benefits. Speak with a qualified employee benefits attorney to discuss the permissibility of these requirements.
Which Employers Must Provide COVID-19 Sick and Personal Leave under the FFCRA?
The FFRCA covers employers not otherwise subject to specific FMLA provisions. Most public entities and private employers with less than 500 employees must provide FFCRA benefits. The majority of federal agencies and large corporations are already required to provide similar benefits. Small businesses with less than 50 employees must provide at least two weeks of paid sick time, but they may be exempt from giving the ten weeks of childcare leave if it would endanger the business. All employees of covered companies, whether hourly or salaried, are eligible for expanded COVID-19 leave. However, only employees employed for more than 30 days are eligible for the additional ten weeks of childcare benefits.
When are Covered Employees Eligible for FFCRA Benefits?
Only employees who can work or work from home (telework) are eligible for FFCRA benefits. However, employees likely qualify for FFCRA benefits if they are unable to work from home for one or more of the following reasons:
- A medical professional has advised the employee to self-quarantine for COVID-19 related reasons, i.e., the employee was potentially exposed or a silent carrier
- The employee is required to quarantine under federal, local, or state orders
- The employee is caring for someone subject to quarantine
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and currently seeking medical treatment and diagnosis
- The employee is the primary caretaker of a child under 14 whose school is closed and/or childcare provider unavailable due to COVID-19
- The employee is experiencing a “substantially similar condition,” but the government has not provided a list of qualifying conditions to date
Employees must submit documentation to claim FFCRA benefits except when experiencing symptoms and seeking a diagnosis. For example, employers may request an explanation for why a child’s typical care provider is unavailable, why a child over the age of 15 needs care, and proof that a school is closed. Eligible employees must prove they are the primary caretakers of children or ill loved ones, explain the relationship, and submit documentation of a quarantine order. Employers may periodically require updated documentation when paying FFCRA benefits.
Are Laid Off and Furloughed Employees Eligible for Benefits?
The FFCRA only applies to non-furloughed employees of active businesses. Furloughed employees, closed worksites, and employees with reduced hours are not eligible for FFCRA leave. They must generally avail themselves of state unemployment benefits. An employee whose worksite closes while on FFCRA leave is no longer entitled to benefits. Employees that requested FFCRA leave before a worksite closed may be eligible for FFCRA benefits if the worksite reopened and rehired the employee.
Get Help Understanding the FFCRA and Recovering Essential Sick & Childcare Benefits
Today, speak with a qualified federal labor law attorney to discuss the latest FFCRA and COVID-19 relief developments. The Department of Labor continues to clarify the Act, and employers may struggle to understand their responsibilities. An experienced Virginia and D.C. employee benefits attorney at McClanahan Powers, PLLC, may help you determine whether you’re eligible for emergency Coronavirus leave and assist you with the application process. Our small business lawyers may also help companies with less than 50 employees recognize their responsibilities under the FFRCA. Whether you need help claiming FMLA benefits, expanded leave under the FFRCA, or determining your eligibility for unemployment, contact our virtual office today by calling 703-520-1326 or reaching out to us online.