On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The new law extends protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees and also requires companies with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave to workers under certain conditions in response to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide up to 12 weeks, ten of which must be paid, for workers who cannot work because they need to care for a family member for reasons related to COVID-19.
The first 10 days of leave may be unpaid (though an employee may use accrued leave), but the law requires the employer to pay the employer during the remainder of the leave at two thirds of their regular pay rate, not to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 total. Employees only need to have been employed for 30 days before becoming eligible for this public health emergency leave. The law provides that employees have the right to return to the same or similar position after taking leave, though there is some exception for employers with less than 25 employees in the event the position no longer exists due to changes in the employers’ economic condition due to the public health emergency. The law permits the Department of Labor to issue exemptions for business with fewer than 50 employees, as well as health care providers and emergency responders.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also mandates that employers provide paid sick leave of up to 80 hours for full-time employees, but no more than $511 per day, or $5,110 total to employees who are unable to work because they are under an order from the government to self-quarantine; a health care provider has told them to self-quarantine; or they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a diagnosis.
Additionally, the law also mandates that covered employers (i.e., those with less than 500 employees) provide paid sick leave of up to 80 hours for full-time employees, but no more than $200 per day or $2,000 total, to an employee who is caring for someone who has been advised or ordered to quarantine; whose children are in their care due to school closing or the unavailability of a child care provider due to COVID-19 precautions; or for any other reason prescribed by the Department of Health and Human Services. This emergency sick leave is available to employees regardless of how long they have been employed.