Federal Family First Coronavirus Response Act Creates New Leave Rights
Effective April 1, 2020, there are two new federal employment laws that can immediately impact employers and many employees — the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Together, these new laws are commonly known as the Family First Coronavirus Response Act or simply the “Family First Act”.
The entire text of the Family First Act is online at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text This article summarizes six main provisions that employees and employers need to know about their new rights and responsibilities.
The key purpose of the Family First Act is to protect employees who cannot work on account of the Coronavirus pandemic. As such, it entitles “eligible employees” to take paid leave if the employee is unable to work because he or she is:
- unable to work (or telework) because they're subject to government quarantine
or isolation order;
- self-quarantined on the advice of a health care provider to due to concerns related
- experiencing symptoms of COVID–19;
- caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation; and/or
- staying home to care for a minor child whose school or daycare facility has closed
due to COVID-19
Unlike the FMLA, which only applies to employees who have worked at least one year for a company employing over 50 people, the Family First Act applies to employees who: 1) have been working, full-time or part-time, for at least 30 calendar days; 2) for an employer that has between 1 and 500 employees. However, this new law contains many technical exemptions, perhaps the most important of which is that businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be able to avoid these requirements if they can prove that providing the leave would risk them going out of business. Another important exemption is that health care providers and emergency responders may elect to exclude their employees.
If the leave is to stay home with a minor child whose school or daycare is closed, the employee could qualify for as much as 10 weeks of paid leave. However, if the leave is any other Coronavirus-related reason, then the amount of paid leave is limited to 80 hours.
In either scenario, companies are able to seek reimbursement through tax credits.
Similar to the FMLA, employees taking Family First leave leave are entitled to be restored to their same or an equivalent position upon their timely return to work. However, employers with fewer than 25 employees would not be required to comply with these job restoration requirements if the employee’s former position does not exist due to economic conditions and
the employer makes reasonable efforts to restore the employee to a position equivalent to one they held when leave began.
Unless amended, the right to take Family First leave expires December 1, 2020.
The Family First Act states that “[e]ach employer shall [immediately] post and keep posted, in
conspicuous places on the premises of the employer where notices to employees are customarily posted, a notice, to be prepared or approved by the Secretary of Labor, of the requirements described in this Act.”
Employers can get a compliance poster online at: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-poster-questions
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author, Tom Shumaker.
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