As part of the national response to the COVID 19 virus pandemic, President Trump signed “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (HR 6201), a new law that expands the “Family and Medical Leave Act” (FMLA)  to include provisions for employees and their families affected by the coronavirus/COVID 19 pandemic.  These provisions have potentially large impacts on employers and employee compensation.\.

The law specifies the conditions for FMLA leave that apply to employees in the following situations wherein the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a coronavirus-related need for leave. The conditions are that the employee be:

  1. subject to a Federal, State, or local government-mandated COVID-19 quarantine or isolation order 
  2. advised by a qualified health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
  3. experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis
  4. caring for an individual subject to an order described above
  5. caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed for reasons related to COVID-19; (and no other childcare option is available)
  6. experiencing any other substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury

Under the Act, Companies with less than 500 employees must provide employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected FMLA leave; 2 weeks of the leave may be unpaid and the other 10 weeks must be paid at no less than 2/3 of the employee’s usual rate of pay.  This employee must have been employed for 30 days or more and the leave may be used only where one of the above coronavirus-related situations described above exists. Payments to the employee are limited to $200 per day or $10,000 for the 12 weeks.

Another coronavirus-related situation addressed by this law requires employers with fewer than 500 to allow employees who are sick with COVID 19-related illness up to two weeks of job-protected sick leave with a compensation cap of $511 per day for the employee’s own care.  Compensation would be at the regular rate of pay unless the employee is caring for a family member such as in the conditions outlined above.

Part of the next Coronavirus relief package currently under discussion in Congress are a series of tax credits and deductions or other relief that will be offered to defray the cost of the coronavirus-related leave requirements on small businesses already reeling from the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

For further information, please consult the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division:

For the past two decades, Coley clients have relied on our experts to keep abreast of any and all legislative and regulatory issues that impact their businesses.  The current pandemic is no exception—we are on duty to support you.

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