On March 18, 2020, the Senate passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which contains provisions related to mandatory paid leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees.
Under the new Act, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is temporarily revised to include any employee who has been employed for 30 days. The one year/1250 hours/50 employees do not apply. The qualifying events are limited primarily to care for children whose school/day care has been disrupted by COVID-19. However, other than the first 10 days of FMLA leave under this act which can be unpaid – or paid through other existing PTO coverage – the remainder of the leave is paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay capped at $200/day and $10,000 in the aggregate. This can get very expensive.
Conversely, the paid sick time is far broader in coverage and effectively applies to any COVID-19 related health issue whether it be for the individual, a child or for someone for whom they are caring. Payment is at the employee’s regular rate if the employee is the affected person and at 2/3 of their regular rate if they are caring for another person. This provision of the act is for 10 days of sick time which is intended to supplement, and not in any manner diminish, existing PTO.
The other very important component of the paid sick leave provision is that violations will be treated under the penalties of the FLSA – including liquidated damages (i.e. the same as overtime).
There is a provision that allows for the Secretary of Labor to exclude from mandatory participation a business with viability issues, but that only applies to businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
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