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Employer Obligations Under the ´╗┐Families First Coronavirus Response Act

March 16, 2020

Cleveland, Ohio

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, the House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Act”). It will become law if it is approved by the Senate and signed by the White House, which has already voiced support for it. The goal of the Act is to provide additional assistance for those impacted by their inability to work due to COVID-19 quarantines, school closings, and closing of childcare facilities. Employees will be eligible to receive paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave through December 31, 2020.
In short, the bill provides:

1.   Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act – applies to all employers with less than 500 employees and allows all employees sick leave as follows:
  • To be quarantined because of a coronavirus diagnosis
  • To secure a medical diagnosis if experiencing symptoms of coronavirus
  • To quarantine based on recommendation or order by physician or public health official that the employee’s physical presence on the job would jeopardize the health of others
  • To provide care for a family member who is in quarantine
  • To provide care for an employee’s child due to school or childcare closure due to coronavirus
The Act entitles full-time employees to 80 hours of leave and part-time employees with leave equal to their average number of hours worked over a two-week period. An employee will be compensated at their regular rate for leave, except that they will be paid for two-thirds of their regular rate to care for a family member who is self-quarantined or a child whose school has closed. 

2.  The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act – a new federal emergency paid leave program will require employers with less than 500 employees (with authority to exempt employers with 50 or fewer employees) to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for those unable to work because they have been diagnosed with coronavirus and/or are quarantined, are caring for a family member who was exposed or has symptoms of coronavirus, or are caring for a child due to coronavirus-related school closings. Leave will be unpaid for the first fourteen (14) days, unless the employee chooses to substitute paid time off. After the first fourteen (14) day period, employers will be required to provide employees with partially paid leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate. 

The Act does not provide guidance to employers with more than 500 employees. In addition, the Act provides for additional funds to be directed to state unemployment insurance programs. In Ohio, for example, the Governor’s anticipated executive order will provide a temporary expansion of Ohio’s unemployment benefits due to unemployment related to coronavirus including waiving the unemployment waiting period and job search requirements, allowing benefits to those who are quarantined, are taking care of children home from school due to emergency coronavirus closures, or are impacted by a business closure due to coronavirus. 

We will continue to monitor and inform you of these legislative changes as they happen.

LNA members are not affiliated in the joint practice of law; each member firm is an independent law firm and renders professional services on an individual and separate basis.