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Answers to Your Questions about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Effective April 1, 2020


With so much emergency legislation passed in the last two weeks, it’s hard for employers to keep up with the new requirements that have been placed upon them. The U.S. Department of Labor has issued a detailed, 59-question Q&A response to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was passed on March 26, 2020 and takes effect on April 1, 2020. The law is currently in effect until December 31, 2020. If you have under 500 employees, you immediately need to learn how this new law affects your business.



Summary of the Law:


The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “FFCRA”), signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020, provides small and midsize employers refundable tax credits that reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave wages to their employees for leave related to COVID-19.


The FFCRA gives businesses with fewer than 500 employees (referred to throughout these FAQs as “Eligible Employers”) funds to provide employees with paid sick and family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. Workers may receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for their own health needs or to care for others and up to an additional ten weeks of paid family leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or child care provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions. The FFCRA covers the costs of this paid leave by providing small businesses with refundable tax credits. Certain self-employed individuals in similar circumstances are entitled to similar credits.


For more information on the tax credits available to small businesses, please see our Overview of the COVID-19-Related Tax Credits for Required Paid Leave Provided by Small and Midsize Businesses.


Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:


  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and

  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.


Qualifying Reasons for Leave:

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:





  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;

  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;

  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;

  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);

  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or

  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for expanded family leave if the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.


Duration of Leave:

For reasons (1)-(4) and (6): A full-time employee is eligible for 80 hours of leave, and a part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period.

For reason (5): A full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave (two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family & medical leave) at 40 hours a week, and a part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.


Calculation of Pay:


For leave reasons (1), (2), or (3): employees taking leave are entitled to pay at either their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).


For leave reasons (4) or (6): employees taking leave are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate (over a 2-week period).

For leave reason (5): employees taking leave are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in the aggregate (over a 12-week period).  


Notice Posting Requirements (conveyed in-office and/or electronically)


Another update by the DOL applies to the required posting under FFCRA. The DOL confirmed that All employers covered by the paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA are required to post the Department of Labor notice listing employee rights. The Department of Labor FFCRA poster is available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic. The Department of Labor has provided one poster for use by private employers covered by the FFCRA and another poster for use by federal employers.


For employees who are teleworking, employers can satisfy the posting requirement by emailing or direct mailing the notice to current employees or by posting the notice on an internal or external employee information website.


DEPARTMENT OF LABOR QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS


While the DOL has issued answers to 59 questions, below are the most relevant excerpts for small business owners. The full Q&A can be found on the Department of Labor website.


What is the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?


The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

Who is a covered employer that must provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA?


Generally, if you employ fewer than 500 employees you are a covered employer that must provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. For additional information on the 500 employee threshold, see Question 2. Certain employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the Act’s requirements to provide certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. For additional information regarding this small business exemption, see Question 4 and Questions 58 and 59 below.


Certain public employers are also covered under the Act and must provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. For additional information regarding coverage of public employers, see Questions 52-54 below.


If I take paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, does that count against other types of paid sick leave to which I am entitled under State or local law, or my employer’s policy?


No. Paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is in addition to other leave provided under Federal, State, or local law; an applicable collective bargaining agreement; or your employer’s existing company policy.


When does the small business exemption apply to exclude a small business from the provisions of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?


An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees (small business) is exempt from providing (a) paid sick leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons and (b) expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that:


  1. The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;  

  2. The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or  

  3. There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.


If I am a small business with fewer than 50 employees, am I exempt from the requirements to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?


A small business is exempt from certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements if providing an employee such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. This means a small business is exempt from mandated paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave requirements only if the:


  • employer employs fewer than 50 employees;

  • leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; and

  • an authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the three conditions described in Question 58 is satisfied.


The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to reach the best solution for maintaining the business and ensuring employee safety. 

If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?


No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer here.


If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?


No, not while your worksite is closed. If your employer closes your worksite, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer here. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.


If my employer reduces my scheduled work hours, can I use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that I am no longer scheduled to work? 


No. If your employer reduces your work hours because it does not have work for you to perform, you may not use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that you are no longer scheduled to work. This is because you are not prevented from working those hours due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason, even if your reduction in hours was somehow related to COVID-19.

You may, however, take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working your full schedule. If you do, the amount of leave to which you are entitled is computed based on your work schedule before it was reduced (see Question 5).


May I collect unemployment insurance benefits for time in which I receive pay for paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?


No. If your employer provides you paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance. However, each State has its own unique set of rules; and DOL recently clarified additional flexibility to the States (UIPL 20-10) to extend partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours or pay have been reduced. Therefore, individuals should contact their State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about eligibility. For additional information, please refer here.



The Grady Firm attorneys provide the following employment law services:


  • Assistance with interpreting emergency Covid-19 legislation as it affects your business;

  • Counsel employers on staff changes and draft Notices of Reduced Hours, Furloughs, or Layoffs;

  • Draft Severance Agreements;

  • Act as I-9 agent and I-9 audit preparation or defense;

  • Employee v. independent contractor classification analysis;

  • Assistance with converting independent contractors to employees;

  • On-site, classroom-style Sexual Harassment training for employees and supervisors;

  • “Experiential” supervisor training in which managerial employees practice processing a harassment complaint and commencing an investigation in pairs with other trainees.

  • Draft and review Employee Handbooks, arbitration agreements, and Anti-Harassment policies;

  • Employee personnel file audits;

  • Litigation defense.

To learn more about ensuring your business is compliant with state and local laws, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (949) 798-6298; or fill out a Contact Request Form.  The Grady Firm has offices in Beverly Hills, Newport Beach, and San Diego, California.


*Jennifer A. Grady, Esq. is licensed to practice employment law in California.

This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.

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