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Employers’ New Proposed Obligations in the Coronavirus Pandemic

03.16.2020

This has now been signed in to law with changes so refer instead to this article.

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On March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“HR 6201”). HR 6201, expected to be approved and signed into law, currently awaits Senate approval.

HR 6201 imposes several obligations on employers with fewer than 500 employees (“Covered Employers”). First, HR 6201 amends the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to provide temporary additional reasons for leave due to the COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) pandemic. Second, HR 6201 mandates Covered Employers provide employees with paid sick leave on account of Coronavirus. If HR 6201 is enacted, the following provisions will go into effect fifteen days thereafter and will expire on December 31, 2020.

The Family Medical Leave Act

HR 6201 allows employees of a Covered Employer to take 12 weeks of job-protected FMLA leave for a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” Leave under this extended FMLA provision may be used, among other things, to care for a child whose school has been closed due to Coronavirus, to respond to a quarantine requirement or recommendation, or to care for a family member who are responding to such. The first 14 days of this leave do not need to be paid, however employees may use other paid leave to cover this time (but may not be required to do so). Any leave after 14 days must be paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay. This leave benefit only applies to employees who have been employed by a Covered Employer for 30 calendar days.

Paid Sick Leave

In addition to the expanded FMLA provisions, Covered Employers must provide full-time employees with up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay if an employee is self-quarantining, seeking medical attention in the event the employee is experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, or caring for a family member who is self-quarantining or who has Coronavirus symptoms. Part-time employees need only be provided paid sick time in an amount equal to the number of hours they work, on average, in a two-week period. As soon as HR 6201 becomes effective, Covered Employers will be required to post a notice informing employees of their rights to such paid sick leave. In the event an employee is located in a locality that already has a paid sick leave law in effect, the state or local paid sick leave law will preempt HR 6201.

The Employment, Labor, and Benefits Department at Koley Jessen is closely monitoring the Coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the workforce. Employers with questions are encouraged to contact a member of our team.

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