Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Mar 20, 2020
On March 18, the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA” or “Act”). The Act goes into effect on April 2, 2020 and stays in effect until December 31, 2020. The Act provides comprehensive funding for a variety of agencies to lessen the economic impact of necessary responses to the Coronavirus. Two categories of funding relate to employers: the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020, and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
This section of the FFCRA applies to employers who employ “fewer than 500 employees” and public employers who employ “1 or more employees” and provides for paid sick leave if an employee is unable to work for any of the following COVID-19-related reasons:
- the employee is subject to a government quarantine or isolation order, or has self-quarantined on the advice of a health care worker (note: provision does not apply if an employee decides on their own to self-quarantine);
- the employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or who has been advised to self-quarantine;
- the employee has symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- the employee is caring for a child if the child’s school or place of child-care is closed or the care provider is unavailable; or
- the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by federal government.
- Allowing the first 10 days of leave to be unpaid.
- Requiring subsequent leave to be paid in an amount that is not less than two-third the employee’s regular pay rate, up to $200/day and $10,000 total.
- Employees may elect to use regular paid time off (PTO) before FFCRA paid leave, but employers may not require them to do so.
- Employers must retain the employee during the leave period and allow them to return to the same or an equivalent position after leave (with limited exceptions).
- Employers are entitled to tax credits to offset costs incurred by expanded FMLA coverage.
Under the Act, full-time employees are entitled to up to 80 hours (two weeks) of paid sick leave and part-time employees are entitled to up to the equivalent of the number of hours they work in two weeks, on average. Such leave, however, does not carry over to next year. Paid sick leave under the FFCRA terminates as soon as the employee goes back to work—even if the full two weeks has not been used.
Employers are required to post a notice containing this information. A draft model notice should be available by March 25, 2020.
If an employer subject to these provision fails to comply, it is considered to have failed to pay minimum wages, in violation of federal law and will be subject to penalties. In addition, it is a violation of the Act to discharge, discipline, or in any other manner discriminate against any employee who takes leave or has filed complaint related to the requirements of the Act. In Iowa, such violation could also subject employers to claims under the Wage Payment Act.
Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020
The FFCRA provides for grants to states of nearly $1 billion to cover processing and payment of unemployment claims and insurance. The funding is not restricted by any modifications a state may make to its unemployment requirements such as waiving the requirement that employees engage in work searches, one-week waiting periods for receipt of benefits, good cause, or charging employers for these additional unemployment claims.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
The FFCRA expands the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for “a qualifying need related to a public health emergency,” as declared by the federal government. A “qualifying need” is defined as the need to care for a child if the child’s school or child-care facility has been closed or the child care provide is unavailable due to a public health emergency.
Significantly, the Act expands its applicability to employers with “50 or more employees for each working day during of 20 or more” work weeks and expands coverage to anyone employed by the employer for at least 30 days.
Other relevant provisions include: