Can Working People who Contract COVID-19 take Paid Sick Leave?

| Nov 16, 2020 | Firm News |

As of November, 2020, nearly 10 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 knocking countless working people out of the workplace and into quarantine. While characterizations of the virus’ effect on American life as “unprecedented” have become cliché at this point, lawmakers have enacted legislation to combat the challenges workers face during our “new normal.”

If You or a loved one contract COVID-19 and are sent into quarantine, You may be an eligible employee under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) entitled to paid sick leave under either the FFCRA’s Emergency Paid Sick Leave provisions or the expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Provisions

One of the main effects of the FFCRA is the offering of emergency paid sick leave under the “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.” Eligible employees who themselves have been forced out of work due to COVID-19-related complications may take paid sick leave if they are unable to work or telework because they:

  1. Are subject to government mandated quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19;
  2. Have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19; or
  3. Are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.

Under these circumstances, workers are entitled to the greater of their regular pay, federal minimum wage, or state/local minimum wage for each hour they would have worked. Under no circumstances, however, will they be paid leave totaling more than $511/day or $5,110 over a two-week period.

On the other hand, employees who are unable to work or telework due to their need to care for a loved one who has contracted the virus may also be entitled to paid leave, albeit in some circumstances, at a lower amount. The FFRCA also entitles eligible employees to paid leave if they cannot work because they:

  1. Are caring for someone who is under a quarantine or isolation order, or who was advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  2. Are caring for a child whose school is closed and/or childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19; or
  3. Are experiencing any other “substantially similar” situation to these other reasons identified by the government.

Under these circumstances, you are entitled to compensation at 2/3 of the greater of your regular pay or applicable minimum wage laws.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Provisions

The other primary effect of the FFCRA is the expansion of the FMLA. The FFCRA allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave if the employee is unable to work or telework because he or she has to stay home and care for minor children whose school has closed or whose primary source of childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19.

For purposes of the virus, FMLA leave may be unpaid for the first 10 days, however, employees may also choose to substitute any accrued paid leave previously taken under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave provisions of the FFCRA or employer-offered vacation or personal leave days in lieu of the unpaid 10-day period.

Employers must provide paid leave for each day of leave following this initial 10-day period. The amount of paid leave must be at least 2/3 of the employee’s regular pay, but may not exceed $200/day or $12,000 for the entirety of the 12-week paid leave period.

Are You a Covered Employee under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Both of the FFRCA’s paid leave provisions extend to workers who work for employers with fewer than 500 employees. However, certain small business owners with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the Act’s requirements to provide certain paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave if providing such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business.

Schedule a Consultation

The FFRCA is very much a product of the government’s hasty efforts to provide relief to the American people in light of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and accordingly, can be very confusing to both employees and their employers. While the Department of Labor has posted extensive FAQs interpreting the Act, it is new and its application is subject to quite a bit of uncertainty. Working people and small businesses alike should seek the guidance of a trusted employment attorney regarding the unique facts and circumstances of their case and their rights under the Act.

At the Law Offices of Nicholas A. Kulik, we welcome the opportunity to review your case and answer any questions you may have.

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