On March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The Emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) (“House Bill”) in response to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The House Bill provides for two new, overlapping paid leave requirements for employers: (1) the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, (2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.
The House Bill is not final as it still must pass through the Senate. It is, however, reported that the administration supports the House Bill – so it is likely that some type of legislation will pass.
EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act would apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees and would give the Department of Labor the authority to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The act requires that eligible employees be granted job-protected leave for the following:
- To adhere to a requirement to self-isolate to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus;
- To care for an at-risk family member who is adhering to a requirement self-isolate due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; and
- To care for a child of an employee if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to a coronavirus.
The first 14 days of this leave may be unpaid. However, an employee can choose to substitute accrued leave during this period. Any remaining leave following the initial 14-day period is paid at a rate of two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.
EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act would apply to all employers with fewer than 500 employees and all employees would be eligible for paid sick leave for the following reasons:
- To self-isolate because the employee is diagnosed with coronavirus.
- To obtain a medical diagnosis or care if experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus.
- To comply with a recommendation or order by a public official with jurisdiction or a health care provider on the basis that the physical presence of the employee on the job would jeopardize the health of others.
- To care for or assist a family member of the employee who is self-isolating.
- To care for the child of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider of such child is unavailable, due to coronavirus.
The paid sick leave provision would entitle full-time employees to 80 hours of leave and part-time employees with leave equal to their average number of hours worked over a two-week period. An employee will be compensated at their regular rate of pay for this leave; however, will be paid two-thirds of their regular rate of pay for leave to take care of a family member who is self-isolating or child whose school has closed.
The House Bill was a quickly drafted piece of legislation that left many holes and unanswered questions. The House Bill will hopefully be refined by the Senate before passing; however, employers should prepare for this process to move quickly with guidance that is not always readily available. If employers have any questions regarding coverage, interaction of laws, tax credits, or other provisions of the law – please contact Frantz Ward Partners Brian Kelly or Christopher Koehler and they will engage the appropriate members of the response team.