Employee Sick Leave Protections Expanded Due to the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Written by: Natalie Klyashtorny

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, last week, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Donald Trump signed into law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). 

Employers who have fewer than 50 employees can apply for an exemption from providing family and medical leave and paid sick leave if it “would jeopardize the viability of the business.” 

Impacted employers will also be provided with a corresponding employment tax credit.

Employers with 500 or fewer employees and government entities must immediately offer emergency paid sick leave, of up to 80 hours, to all employees, regardless of how long they have been employed by the employer.

Employees may use other paid time off before using paid sick leave under the FFCRA, but employers may not require that they do so.

Paid sick leave applies to employees who are unable to work (or telework) and who meet any of the following conditions:

  1. subject to a quarantine related to Covid-19;
  2. advised to self-quarantine related to Covid-19;
  3. experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. caring for an individual who is subject to quarantine;
  5. caring for a son or daughter if the school or child-care provider is closed; or
  6. any other substantially similar condition.

Those who work in the City of Philadelphia for an employer with 10 or more employees can also take advantage of the City’s paid sick leave policy before utilizing benefits under the FFCRA.  The City’s paid leave policy was recently extended to cover Covid-19 and provides up to 5 paid sick days to those employees who were employed for 90 days prior and who work at least 40 hours a year. 

In addition to paid sick leave, for those employees who have worked for the employer for at least 30 days, the federal government temporarily expanded FMLA leave for employees who are unable to work (or telework) because: (a) they have been exposed to or have tested positive for Covid-19 or exhibit symptoms of Covid-19, (b) need to care for a family member who has been exposed to, exhibits symptoms of, or has tested positive for Covid-19 or (c) need to care for a child under the age of 18 because the child’s school or child-care provider is closed due to Covid-19. 

The first 10 days of the FMLA leave can be unpaid, and an employee may choose to use accrued vacation, personal or medical or other paid sick leave, such as that provided by the City of Philadelphia’s paid leave policy, for those days.  

The remainder of the temporarily expanded FMLA leave under the FFCRA must be paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay, subject to a limit of $200 per day, and up to a maximum total amount of $10,000.  Employers do not have to provide such paid leave to employees who are not working because the employer’s business closes. 

If you have any questions about issues related to employment or workforce matters as it related to Covid-19 and the recently passed laws, please feel free to contact us at contact@nochumson.com and an attorney at Nochumson P.C. will immediately reach out to you to schedule a free consultation.