On March 18, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, with two components relative to paid leave, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act.

Both apply to all political subdivisions of the Commonwealth, including school districts and municipalities, effective on April 1.

Under the family and medical leave expansion act, employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days may take Public Health Emergency Leave if they are unable to work or telework during a COVID-19 emergency declared by a federal, state or local authority because of a need to care for a child under 18 years old where the school or childcare facility has been closed or the childcare provider is unavailable.

The first 10 days of leave may consist of unpaid leave; however, an employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave for unpaid leave. Beyond the first 10 days, an employer must provide paid leave for each day taken. If an employee’s leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide notice of leave as is reasonable.

The paid leave is calculated based on an amount that is not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay up to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate, and the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work. Employers, however, may elect to exceed these amounts. The law includes specific rules for employees whose schedules vary from week to week.

In general, employees must be reinstated to their jobs following their use of leave. Public Health Emergency Leave ends on Dec. 31, 2020.

Sick leave
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act affords employees paid sick time starting on April 1 if they are unable to work or telework because they are:
• Subject to quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19
• Have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine
• Have symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis
• Caring for an individual who has been ordered or advised to self-quarantine
• Caring for their child if the school or childcare facility has been closed or the childcare provider is unavailable
• Experiencing any other substantially similar condition determined by the secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the secretary of the Treasury and the secretary of Labor

Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time, and part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours equal to the time the employee works, on average, over a two-week period. Employers may not require employees to use other accrued paid leave before using paid sick leave under this law.

Paid sick leave for an employee ends when the employee’s need for the leave ends and he or she returns to the next scheduled work shift. Paid sick time is available immediately, regardless of how long an employee has been employed, and employers may not require employees, as a condition of providing paid leave, to find a replacement to cover the hours during which they used paid sick time.

The amount of leave is calculated based on the employee’s required compensation and the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate if an employee takes leave for their own health and $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate for the other reasons listed.

Employees will be paid the greater of the employee’s regular rate of pay, the federal minimum wage, and the minimum wage in the state or locality in which the employee is employed. Paid sick leave under this law is in addition to any paid leave provided under state or local law or under a collective bargaining agreement.

Penalties
The sick leave act imposes penalties for employers who do not comply, and it makes it unlawful for employers to discharge, discipline or in any other manner discriminate against an employee who takes leave or files a complaint under the act.

Employers must provide notice of this law to employees by posting in a conspicuous place in the workplace a notice that will be prepared or approved by the Secretary of Labor, and employers may require employees to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue receiving paid sick leave.

The sick leave act expires on Dec. 31, 2020, and employees may not carry over leave from one year to the next.

Under both acts, employers of health care providers or emergency responders may exclude such employees from being eligible for Public Health Emergency Leave or Emergency Paid Sick Leave.

For more information, visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.

Link to U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division for Families First Coronavirus Response Act FAQs

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Employee Rights Fact Sheet (poster)

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