Best Ohio Employment Lawyers Insight: What does the Family First Coronavirus Response Act mean for employees? Do I qualify for paid leave under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act? Can I be terminated for using time off under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act? What Is The Family First Coronavirus Response Act?
Our attorneys know that our employment law lawyers‘ blog is beginning to sound a bit narrow, but the news and insight is constantly changing and updating. With that in mind, our lawyers are once again coming to you with Coronavirus (Covid-19) developments on how this pandemic has impacted the law.
There is no doubt that Covid-19/Coronavirus pandemic is a tragedy. Cleveland just reported its first death due to Covid-19. The United States death toll has gone over 4,000 with projections of upwards of 240,000 fatalities; and if that was not enough, the Dow suffers worst first quarter ever.
Many reports say that the worst is yet to come. However, as is the case with many tragedies, Covid-19 is also an opportunity to display how adaptable we as a nation can be. As doctors and nurses battle Covid-19 on the front lines, everyone is doing their part to lessen the impact of this tragedy, even if that means sitting at home and binging Tiger King on Netflix. (Rest assured that our team of lawyers and staff are working remotely to continue to help employees facing whistleblower retaliation, employment discrimination and wrongful termination).
Believe it or not, lawyers and lawmakers are doing our part to try and lessen the impact of Covid-19. A big part of that initiative was the passage of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The FFCRA was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 18, 2020. The FFCRA goes into effect today (April 1, 2020). Unlike most statutes, the FFCRA has an expiration date. As of right now, the FFCRA will only be effective until December 31, 2020. The purpose of this act was to modify existing laws to provide relief and support services to members of the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, what does the FFCRA mean for employees? One of the most significant changes brought on by the FFCRA is its modification of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). As our employment lawyers previously blogged about, the FMLA allows up to 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period for employees who have been at their place of employment for 12 or more months and 1,250 or more hours during that time. For more about your rights and the necessary qualifications to take unpaid medical leave, check out some of the top Ohio employment law attorneys’ advice in our previous blogs (See: What Hours Count Towards My FMLA Eligibility? Best FMLA Attorney Reply!; Can I Be Fired For Asking About FMLA?; and Do I Qualify For FMLA Leave?).
FMLA also allows employees who work for qualified FMLA employers to take unpaid medical leave to care for either a personal serious health condition or the serious health condition of a close family member. For more on who is considered a “close family member,” check out our blog on the topic. (See: FMLA & Coronavirus: Who Can I Miss Work To Care For?)
The FFCRA takes some of the oldest provisions of FMLA and turns them on their heads. For starters, the FFCRA relaxes some of the requirements employees must meet. In order to qualify for the extended FMLA, an employee must have been on an employer’s payroll for at least 30 days.
Further, the reason for the leave must be connected to the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, if an employee cannot work or telework because that employee needs to take care of their child due to the closures of schools and daycare centers. Similarly, an employee is eligible if the employee cannot work because of a COVID-19-related emergency.
Another significant change brought on by the FFCRA is that eligible employees are entitled to paid leave. It is important to note that the first two fees of FMLA leave are unpaid. However, employees may use accrued vacation or sick leave, or Emergency Paid Sick Leave (see below) for the first two weeks of FMLA. Employees can receive up to two-thirds of their regular pay. The pay an employee can receive is calculated based on the hours the employee would typically work. The employee can receive up to $200 per day for a maximum total of $10,000 for 50 days. Employees who do not work set hours may receive pay based on their average number of hours worked in the past six months.
Employers and employees should take note, that the FMLA expansions under the FFCRA have the same protections as standard FMLA leave. Regular readers know, the FMLA also makes it unlawful for employers to fire, discriminate, or otherwise retaliate against an employee who chooses to exercise his or her rights under the FMLA. Importantly, when an employee returns from leave granted by the FMLA, he or she is entitled to be restored to his or her previous job or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms of employment. (See Can I Be Fired For Asking About FMLA?; My Employer Demoted Me Because I Took FMLA Leave!, Can My Boss Stop Me From Taking Medical Leave Under The FMLA?; and My Employer Demoted Me Because I Took FMLA Leave! I Need The Best FMLA Retaliation Lawyer In Ohio!).
There are some exceptions to the standard FMLA protections that apply to the extended leave of the FFCRA. Notably, the exemptions apply only to employers with 25 employees or fewer. If the employer has fewer than 25 employees, the employer does not have to restore the employee to their former position if the position no longer exists due to economic conditions caused by the pandemic. However, the employer is obligated to make reasonable efforts to place the employee in a similar position to the one the employee had before leave. If the employer is unable to put the employee in a similar position, the employer must continue, for the year following the leave, making reasonable efforts to inform the employee if a similar position opens up.
In addition to the temporary modifications to the FMLA, The FFCRA also contains a provision for Emergency Paid Sick Leave. The emergency sick leave provision applies to any employer who employs 500 or fewer employees. Now, under the FFCRA, an employee who has been on an employer’s payroll for more than 30 calendar days and falls into any of the following categories is eligible for leave.
- The employee is under a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order due to COVID-19.
- The employee is quarantined per the orders of their doctor.
- The employee has symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a diagnosis.
- The employee is responsible for taking care of someone who falls into category #1 or #2.
- The employee is taking care of their child due to school closings.
- The employee is symptoms specified by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Under the FFCRA, full-time employees are permitted up to two-weeks (80 hours) of paid leave. Part-time employees are also eligible for paid leave. Part-time employees can receive pay based on the average number of hours they work in a two-week timeframe.
There is a limit on how much an employee using paid emergency sick leave can receive. The maximum pay an employee can receive is based on their reason for taking leave. Employees who fall into categories one through three receive either their regular salary or minimum wage, whichever is higher. These employees can receive up to $511 per day for the two weeks they are on leave. People who fall into categories four through six can get 2/3 of their regular pay, up to $200 a day.
There are a few other notable parts of the FFCRA’s emergency sick leave provision. First, employers cannot require employees to find someone to cover their shift. Employees do not have to use Paid Time Off (“PTO”) they have accrued before going on Emergency paid sick leave. Perhaps most importantly, an employer can not retaliate against employees who use or try to use their Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
It is important to keep in mind, that if an employee is able to telework, while they are in quarantine or caring for a child or close family member, that employee is not eligible for either expanded FMLA or Emergency Paid Sick Leave. However, if an employee’s situation changes, and due to Covid-19 complications, the employee is no longer able to telework, an employee would then be eligible for extended FMLA or Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
Having to deal with the current global pandemic is stressful enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you have used protected leave under the FMLA, or the expanded protections under the FFCRA and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our office at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employee’s rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Disclaimer: The materials available at the top of this overtime, wage and hour web page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “I was fired during the Coronavirus pandemic?”, “Does my company have to pay me hazard pay for coming into work during the Coronavirus outbreak?”, Can I sue my employer for not paying me enough?” or “How do I get money I’m owed for overtime”, the your best option is to contact an Ohio overtime attorney to obtain advice with respect to ADA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.