On April 1, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) becomes effective. Many people are asking, what is it, and why does it matter?
What is it?
The FFCRA is a law that was put in place to protect employees during this unprecedented time in American history. The intention behind the legislation is to protect employees who need to take time off to care for themselves or their families as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and also to take time off to provide child-care for children whose schools are closed for reasons related to COVID-19.
The provisions of the law will remain in place through the end of 2020.
Why does it matter and how does it protect me?
This law matters because over the next several months, as employees begin to return to the workplace, many will need to take time off to self-quarantine, care for sick family members, or because of school closings related to COVID-19.
Specifically, the law provides covered employees with the following:
Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the regular rate of pay (capped at $511 per day or $5,110 over two weeks) where the employee is not able to work as a result of a quarantine, and/or where the employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 of the regular rate of pay (capped at $200 per day or $2,000 over the two weeks) where the employee is not able to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual who is subject to quarantine or to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed for reasons related to COIVD-19.
The act further expands the FMLA to provide for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded FMLA, at 2/3 of the regular rate of pay (again, with caps), where the employee (who must have been employed for 30 days) is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for a child whose school or provider is closed or unavailable for reasons relating to COVID-19.
NOTE: We have highlighted the term bona fide, because that term is important. The employee will need to document the need, and it has to be real.
Who is covered?
Most public and private sector employees who work for small to mid-sized (less than 500 employees) companies
How am I protected if I'm fired or disciplined for taking leave?
One of the important components of this law is the expansion of coverage under the FMLA. Why is this important? Because the FMLA is very protective of employees who need to take time off of work.
In particular, the FMLA has provisions that protect employees from employer interference with the exercise of their rights, as well as from retaliation (often in the form of termination) for exercising those rights.
The FFCRA will provide critical protection for employees who are still working or who return to work after the initial “pause”, only to find that they need to take leave to care for themselves, a sick family member, or a child who remains out of school.
These protections will ensure that employees are able to take the necessary leave without fear that their job will be lost. And, if the employer does the wrong thing, the law provides the employee with legal rights to seek damages.
To learn more about the act and the process to apply for leave, visit the Department of Labor information page.
If you have questions about the FFCRA, FMLA or other employment matters, contact us today.