Last week, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), a law that seeks to provide financial relief to employees who have been forced out of work due to the arrival of the coronavirus in our nation. At Cohen Legal Group, we understand the level of uncertainty that this situation has created not only for employees, but also for employers, particularly for small business owners which are being hit with the unexpected financial burden of this national emergency.
In an effort to minimize your questions or concerns, we are providing a summary of the most important points covered by the new law, specifically with respect to the emergency paid sick leave provisions. Please, do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or concerns regarding this matter.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
Among the various financial incentives provided to employees across the United States, the FFCRA adds an additional layer of protection in the form of an emergency paid sick leave. This benefit is in addition to any paid sick leave already granted in the company policies and procedures, and applies to the following individuals who cannot work or telework due to any of the following reasons:
- Employees subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- Employees who have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- Employees experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- Employees who are caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine order related to COVID-19.
- Employee caring for their sons or daughters because schools and child care are not available due to COVID-19 precautions.
- Employees experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
NOTE: The employer of a health care provider or an emergency responder may elect to exclude such employee from the application of this subsection.
Amount to be paid: Pursuant to the Act, full-time employees will receive pay for 80 hours. For part-time employees, a number of hours equal to the number of hours that such employee works, on average, over a 2-week period. The employer will pay the greater of: the employee’s regular pay or the Federal or State’s minimum wage. However, when the employee is out taking care of someone affected by the COVID-19, the employer will pay 2/3 of the employee’s rate.
In no event this paid sick time will exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate when the employee is sick, and $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate when the employee is taking care of his or her family members.
- This provision applies to employers with less than 500 employees.
- Paid sick time under this section will not carry over from one year to the next.
- An employer may not condition this benefit on the employee searching for a replacement to cover the hours during which the employee is using paid sick time.
- The paid sick time will be available regardless of how long the employee has been employed by an employer.
- An employer cannot force an employee to utilize any accrued paid time off before using the time provided for in the Act. It can’t either change the company policies to circumvent the provisions of the Statute.
As with the FFCRA’s provisions regarding FMLA, the Government is currently working on creating legislation and regulations to support all small businesses affected by these provisions. For instance, under the FFCRA, the Secretary of Labor has the authority to issue the following regulations for good cause:
- To exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders from the definition of employee, including by allowing the employer of such health care providers and emergency responders to opt out; or
To exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the requirement of paying this sick leave when the employee is taking care of his family, when this imposition would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
Finally, the FFCRA also provides for tax credits for the employer, to soften the financial burden of having to comply with this law.
At Cohen Legal Group, we will keep up with any new legislation or regulation regarding this matter that could affect the normal operations of our clients and friends. We also remain available for you to answer any questions so that you may continue to focus on managing the many aspects involving this emergency. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, we remain open to assist medical providers in concentrating on treating their patients. Please feel free to call us at (954) 617-6500.