Employee Benefits Under the Coronavirus Paid Leave Explained by the DOL

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the provisions within them, such as the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), were enacted to help keep any employee affected by COVID-19 on payroll by providing employers with tax credits for the cost of providing them paid sick leave. Employers who are eligible to apply for the reimbursement would include those that have fewer than 500 employees. 

There have been some updates on how an employee will benefit from the protections and relief laid out in the FFCRA. Foremost, it should be noted that the benefits under these regulations are temporary and will only be accessible for a limited time, starting on April 1, 2020 and expiring on December 31, 2020. Additionally, the Department of Labor (DOL), specifically their Wage and Hour Division, will be the one issuing all rules relevant to administering the FFCRA paid leave.

Eligible employees wanting to take a paid leave under EPSLA, which allows them to receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave, must fall under any one of the following specified reasons related to COVID-19 and clarified by the DOL:

  • they are seeking medical care after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  • they or someone they are caring for has been issued a government quarantine order or advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine
  • they are caring for their child whose school or care provider has closed due to COVID-19
    • however, the DOL has noted the following regarding employee eligibility:
      • you are eligible for paid leave only if your self-quarantine has been issued by the government or a medical professional (and not self-imposed) or if they have deemed you particularly vulnerable to COVID-19
      • if you are seeking medical care for yourself, you must have the symptoms identified by the CDC as well as documentation of the steps you’ve taken to seek medical care (ie time spent making, waiting for, and attending appointments)
      • you are ineligible for paid leave if your employer has also been subject to a government quarantine or “shelter in place” order since they do not have to provide a paid leave if they are forced to comply with the order
      • you are eligible for a paid leave if your employer has instituted a remote working policy and still has work for you (ie working from home) but you are unable to complete the work remotely due to not having the proper equipment that is beyond your control (ie power outage or other extenuating circumstance)
      • if you are caring for an individual who has been quarantined or advised to self quarantine, you must be either their immediate family member, roommate or the person they share a significant relationship with
      • if you are caring for a child whose school or care provider has closed due to COVID-19 there must be no other suitable person (i.e. co-parent, co-guardian) available as a caretaker

Those caring for themselves will have their 80 hours of paid sick leave paid at their regular rate of pay. However, if they are caring for someone else or a child affected by the specified reasons related COVID-19 above, they will only be able to receive two-thirds of their regular rate of pay for those 80 hours of paid sick leave. 

If an eligible employee is looking to enact their rights under EFMLEA, which provides additional paid leave of up to 10 weeks followed by up to 2 weeks of unpaid leave, the following must be true:

  • they are caring for a child whose school or care provider has closed due to COVID-19

The 10 week paid leave portion of this stipulation would be paid out at two-thirds their regular rate of pay. 

As the DOL begins to implement these regulations, many questions or concerns may arise as we begin to understand our rights during these unprecedented times. Feel free to call our firm for a free phone consultation at (212) 300-0375. Fitapelli & Schaffer will connect you with an available representative who will confidentially discuss your potential claims and what rights you may have with regard to your employment during this time. You can also visit our website for some additional useful information.