On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Senate passed the amended H.R. 6201 today, which the President has signed.
Some highlights are:
FMLA: Expansion of FMLA to all employers under 500 employees, requiring paid FML leave for limited purposes. This component of the law has a 10 day (unpaid) waiting period, capped amounts and may be used for limited purposes. The expanded Family and Medical Leave Act will provide employees who have worked for the company for at least 30 days with 10 weeks of emergency paid leave to care for children whose schools or daycare facilities were closed as a result of the virus.
Quarantined workers, or those who were caring for afflicted family members, will not be eligible. Healthcare providers and other first responders may also be excluded. After 10 days of unpaid leave, during which employees may use accrued personal or sick leave, the employer must pay the affected employee no less than two-thirds of their usual pay—up to $200 per day, and up to $10,000 in total. Each quarter, employers subject to the requirement are entitled to a fully refundable tax credit equal to 100 percent of the qualified paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) wages paid by the employer.
EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE: The Act provides emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) over and above that currently required by Arizona’s paid sick leave and over any additional paid leave your company may currently offer. All employees, regardless of length of employment, are eligible for the emergency sick leave. Full time employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of EPSL while part-time employees will be entitled to the number of hours they normally work in a two-week period. This component of the law does NOT have a waiting period. There are capped amounts, up to two weeks at an employee’s regular pay (up to $511 a day, up to $5,110 in total) to either quarantine, seek a diagnosis of Covid-19, or for treatment for Covid-19. Leave to care for a family member diagnosed with Covid -19, or to care for a child whose school or day care has closed as a result of Coronavirus concerns, is paid at 2/3 an employee’s regular pay (up to $200 a day). The EPSL provisions take effect in 15 days.
Employees may use EPSL when they cannot work or telework because they:
- are subject to a government quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19,
- have been advised by healthcare providers to self-quarantine due to COVID-19,
- are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis,
- are caring for an individual subject to a quarantine order or self-quarantine,
- are caring for children if schools are closed or their caregivers are unavailable because of a public health emergency, or
- are experiencing substantially similar conditions as those specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
It is important to note that EPSL is in addition to whatever sick leave is already offered by employers, including that required by Arizona’s paid sick leave (PSL) law which requires 24-40 PSL hours annually, depending upon the company size. An employer may not require an employee to use other available paid leave before using this emergency paid sick time.
Although PSL is required by Arizona state law, nothing prohibits employers from changing their voluntary leave programs now, or after the law goes into effect.
Companies with less than 50 employees may seek an exemption to the paid leave mandate the Department of Labor if it would “jeopardize the viability” of their business.
Affected Companies will have to front the costs of paid sick and emergency leave, but will be eligible for subsequent reimbursement through tax credits. Self-employed individuals are also eligible for the reimbursable tax credits.
Discrimination and termination prohibitions for exercise of rights under this law are similar to Arizona’s Fair Wages & Healthy Families Act.
The lawyers at Faulkner Law Offices, PLLC have decades of experience and can help employers and employees maneuver through these challenging times.