July 9, 2020
Attorney Guide: Families First Coronavirus Response Act
An Employment Attorney Guide to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
By: Horton, Knox, Carter & Foote – El Centro
Over the last few weeks cases of COVID-19 in Imperial County have continued to increase at an alarming rate. In response to the pandemic, the United States Government has enacted several laws that create new rights and benefits for employees and new obligations for employers. Pertinently, in March of 2020 the United States Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA expands the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), creates paid sick leave for coronavirus-related reasons, and creates partially paid leave for certain employees who need to miss work to care for children whose schools are closed due to coronavirus. For employers, the Act creates new obligations such as paid leave, posting obligations, and documentation requirements. When employers provide paid leave to employees, they may be eligible for tax credits under the FFCRA.
Here are some key questions and answers regarding the FFCRA:
Are parents entitled to paid leave if their child’s school is closed due to COVID-19?
Officials at the Imperial County Office of Education (ICOE) are still unsure what schools will look like this fall. Schools may continue to instruct students via distance learning or have a combination of distance learning and in-person classes, albeit with reduced class sizes. This reality means that parents may need to take leave from work to care for children when childcare may otherwise be unavailable.
Generally, an employee may be entitled to paid leave when the employee is: “caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or childcare provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons.” The Department of Labor (DOL) has defined “place of care” as including day cares, summer schools, and summer camps. This paid leave provision is a recognition that many schools and other childcare providers are closed due to shelter-at-home orders. The DOL has explained that in addition to schools and paid services, the child care provider definition “also includes individuals who provide child care at no cost and without a license on a regular basis, for example, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or neighbors.”
What information must employers document for employees taking childcare leave?
For employers, it is important to understand when you are required to provide an employee with paid leave and what documentation the employee is required to provide to the employer.
It is important to document the reasons why an employee is taking paid leave under FFCRA in order to claim their corresponding tax credit. Particularly for employees who seek leave due to child care being unavailable, employers must document: 1) the name of the child being cared for; 2) the name of the school, place of care, or child care provider that has closed; and 3) a statement from the employee that no other suitable person is available to care for the child. If an employer fails to retain documentation substantiating an employee’s need for paid leave under FFCRA, the employer may be unable to claim the corresponding tax credit. Accordingly, it is imperative that employers document the any paid leave provided to employees in accordance with DOL and IRS regulations.
When am I entitled to paid sick leave under FFCRA?
The FFCRA entitles some employees to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for the following reasons:
- Employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis; and
- is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2).
Paid leave under FFCRA may be either full pay or partial pay depending on a number of factors, including, but not limited to, what qualifying reason the leave is for, and whether the employee is full time or part time.
As an employer what information must I document when an employee asks for paid sick leave?
When an employee requests paid sick leave under FFCRA, employers must document the following: 1) the name of the employee requesting leave; 2) the dates the leave is requested; 3) the reason for leave; and 4) a statement from the employee that he or she is unable to work because of the stated reason for his leave. Additionally, if an employee requests sick leave because a healthcare provider has advised the employee to self-quarantine, the employer should document the name of the health care provider who provided the advice. Finally, if an employee requests leave because he/she is subject to a quarantine or self-isolation order, the employer should keep a record of the name of the government that issued the order.
Does the FFCRA apply to all employers?
Whether the paid leave requirements apply to your business depends on the size of your business. Private employers with 500 employees or more are exempt from the requirements of FFCRA. There is also a Small Business Exemption for certain employer with less than 50 employees. The Small Business Exemption may apply if the viability of the small business would be jeopardized by providing employees paid leave. Finally, there are additional exemptions to the paid leave requirements when the employees at issue are either health care providers or emergency responders. If you have questions about whether your business may be eligible for an FFCRA exemption, we recommend you contact an experienced employment attorney.
Unsure if you need an Attorney? HKCF is here to help you.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed life as we know it. It has also changed the legal landscape, especially with respect to paid leave available to employees. An employment attorney can help you keep up to date on changes in the law.
If you are unsure whether you need the assistance of an attorney, our firm offers free consultations. To fully understand and comply with the requirements of FFCRA, we recommend you contact Horton Knox Carter & Foote, LLP and schedule a free consultation with an experienced employment attorney.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog post is informational in nature and should not be taken as legal advice. Additionally, this blog post is not comprehensive, but merely an expose of some provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
For an informational poster from the United States Department of Labor:
For further information about Imperial County’s schools reopening: