|As updates on COVID-19 Coronavirus continue to roll in almost hourly, here is where Congress stands on tackling the virus today. Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6201 “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” with bipartisan support. We are waiting for the Senate to vote on this Bill this week. Employers need to prepare to implement three important provisions in the bill:
Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Emergency Paid Leave Benefits expands current FMLA benefits in scope and time related to COVID-19 diagnosis and care. Covered employers are those with fewer than 500 employees (regardless of employee’s duration prior to leave).
Under this provision, covered employers must allow 12 weeks of protected-FMLA leave for employees who have been with the Company for 30 days. Eligible individuals include folks: (1) diagnosed with COVID-19, (2) under quarantine, (3) caregiving because of a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine, or (4) caregiving because of a COVID-19 related closing of a school or other care facility for children. Over the weekend, Governor Newsom reported that 51% of all districts in the state have already shut down. State officials anticipate that number will continue to increase so employers need to prepare for many employees staying home for childcare.
Paid Sick Days
Under this provision, employees begin to earn paid sick time immediately upon employment. Employees will receive paid sick time in addition to whatever the employer already provides. Full-time salaried employees will receive fourteen (14) days, and part-time or hourly employees will receive paid sick time equal to the number of hours that the employee regularly works in a 14-day period. Again, this provision only covers employers with fewer than 500 employees (regardless of employee’s duration prior to leave).
Unemployment Insurance Stabilization Act
This provision contemplates easing up on the eligibility requirements and access to unemployment compensation by waiving the work search requirements and the waiting week and relieving benefit charges for claimants and employers. Half of the $1 billion allocated will provide funding to states for administrative costs and the other half will provide unemployment compensation. Where the Company has made a business-decision to close its offices, employers need to plan for mail pick-up or forwarding for timely responses.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
As President Trump has already shown public support for the bill, we anticipate he will sign it into law immediately however the Senate has not yet voted on the bill citing “technical errors” that need to be fixed by the House of Representatives. Employers should check back regularly for updates both from Washington D.C. and here in the state’s capitol. California Governor Newsom announced that another press conference will be held on Tuesday afternoon. Separately, Vice President Pence is scheduled to hold a press conference this week.
Stay tuned for the Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated E-Blast on ‘Frequently Asked Questions for Telework’ to follow. Our office continues to remain open and available for individual questions.