On March 18, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which imposes obligations on many employers to provide temporary paid benefits to employees. There are two separate laws which impose obligations on those employers who employ less than 500 employees. Therefore, this law impacts many small businesses.
Paid Medical Leave
The first new law is called the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act. Basically, it is Emergency FMLA. But unlike normal FMLA requirements, this Emergency FMLA applies to employers with less than 500 employees and employees who have worked at their place of employment for 30 or more calendar days.
The Emergency FMLA provides for 12 weeks of paid leave if the employee needs to care for a child (under 18) whose school or daycare has closed due to COVID-19 emergencies declared by government authorities.
The first 10 days of this leave are unpaid, but the employee may use PTO or other benefits. The rate of pay for this leave is not less than 2/3 the normal rate of pay and is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 total.
Paid Sick Leave
The second new law is called the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. This law requires employers to provide temporary sick leave to employees who are:
– subject to a quarantine order by a government authority
– advised to self-quarantine by a health care provider
– experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis
– caring for someone subject to a governmental quarantine order or a health provider’s self-quarantine advisory
– caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19 precautions
– experiencing other substantially similar conditions specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
Full time employees must be given 80 hours of sick leave, at their normal rate of pay, capped at $511 per day ($5,110 total) for self-care and $200 per day ($2,000 total) to care for others. Part time employees are entitled to the average number of hours worked over a two-week period.
This law new law applies to all employees, regardless of how long they have worked at their place of employment. This leave is above and beyond any other benefits employees are already provided, and they cannot be forced to use other benefits before these new benefits.
Small Employer Exception
Employers with less than 50 employees may apply for an exemption from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act goes into effect on April 2, 2020, and expires on December 31, 2020.
This webpage contains general information and not legal advice, nor is it an exhaustive representation of its subject matter. It is based on Minnesota law in effect at the time of writing. An attorney at Farrish Johnson can advise you about how the law applies to your specific situation.