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  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act Passes

    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:

    • Subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
    • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
    • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
    • Caring for an individual who is subject to a government quarantine or a self-quarantine advised by a health care provider (reasons 1 and 2 above);
    • Caring for their child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child-care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions; or
    • Experiencing any other “substantially similar condition” specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

    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.

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