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Employers Face New Paid Sick and Family Leave Obligations Under New COVID-19 Act


Effective April 2, 2020 businesses with up to 500 employees will be subject to expanded paid sick and family leave obligations.      

Sick Leave – Under the new law, all employees are eligible for 80 hours of paid sick leave under the following COVID-19 related circumstances:

1. If the employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation;  

2. If the employees advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; 

3. If the employee is symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis; 

4. If the employee caring for someone who is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;  or

5. If the employee needs to care of the employees child because the child’s school or day care is closed; or 

Under circumstances described in 1-3 above, sick leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate.  Under 4 and 5, sick leave is paid at 2/3 the regular rate.

Sick leave wages paid under 1-3 above cannot exceed $511 per day up to a total of $5,110 while sick leave wages paid under 4 and 5 are limited to $200 per day and $2,000 in total.

Part-time employees are also eligible for paid sick leave under the new law.

Family Leave (FMLA) –  Under the amended FMLA, employees who are not able to work (either in the office or at home) are entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to allow the employee to care for the employee’s child if the child’s school or daycare is closed due to COVID-19.  The amended FMLA expands both the definition of a covered employer and the benefits available to eligible employees.  Among the more significant changes are the following:

· The amended FMLA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees, though hardship exemptions may be available to employers with less than 50 employees.  

· Employees only need to have worked for at least 30 days to be eligible for FMLA leave.

· The first 10 days of FMLA may be unpaid, though the employee can elect to use available PTO.   After 10 days, the employee is entitled to be paid at 2/3 the regular rate of pay for the hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled.   FMLA paid COVID-19 leave is limited to a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 total per employee.

· The new FMLA requirements apply to full and part-time employees. In the case of part-time employees, paid leave is based on average hours worked by the employee during the previous 6 months.

· Employers are required to return any employee who has taken leave to the same or equivalent position when they return to work.   There are  exemptions available to businesses with less than 25 employees under limited circumstances.

As noted above the new paid sick leave and FMLA requirements are effective April 2, 2020.  The new requirements are currently set to expire on December 31, 2020.

Of course,  Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia have their own sick and family leave requirements which need to be considered depending on the location of your business and its employees.

Employers should immediately make their employees aware of the new paid sick leave and FMLA policies.  In addition, Employee handbooks should be amended to incorporate the new law.  Finally, the described changes should be posted wherever the employer customarily places employee postings.

Attorneys from The Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A.’s Employment and Labor Law and Business Law Practice Groups are available to assist with any questions you have regarding the new law or any other employment or business related issue.

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