On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed additional emergency relief legislation known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Families First Act). Passed because of the escalating coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) situation, the Families First Act creates expanded employee benefits and protections related to COVID-19, including a new federal paid sick leave law, an emergency expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and expanded unemployment insurance provisions.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide full-time employees with an additional 80 hours of paid sick leave, or, for part-time employees, the number of hours equal to the hours worked during an average two-week period. For part-time employees with varying schedules, employees can base their calculation on the average number of hours the employee was scheduled per day over a six month period, or, if they haven’t worked that long, the reasonable expectation of the average hours the employee is expected to be scheduled to work.
The leave is available for immediate use by the employee when the law takes effect, regardless of how long the employee was employed, i.e., it does not need to be accrued like most paid leave. The leave is also provided in addition to any existing paid leave previously provided by employers.
Employers must provide this emergency paid sick time when the employee is unable to work (or telework/remote work) because the employee is:
Employees must be paid at their regular rate for reasons 1-3 above, except that pay cannot exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate. When employees are taking paid sick leave to care for someone else, or the employee is experiencing any other “substantially similar condition,” i.e., reasons 4-6 above, then employers can pay employees two-thirds their regular rate, except that pay cannot exceed $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate in those circumstances.