Federal Government Provides Emergency Sick Leave

March 26, 2020

The federal government recently enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes paid sick leave related to COVID-19. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and its requirements take effect no later than 15 days after its enactment, which is April 2. Below is a synopsis of the key provisions. Members should consult with the county attorney or labor counsel regarding its specific application to their entities.

Qualified reasons: An employee is eligible for emergency sick leave if he or she is unable to work (or telework) because the employee:

  1. is subject to federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order due to COVID-19.
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  4. is caring for an individual who qualifies under No. 1 or 2.
  5. is caring for a son or daughter of such an employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed or the child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.
  6. is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

Qualified employer: For MCIT members, the Act generally applies to all public entities that employ one or more employees.

Eligibility: An employee is eligible immediately regardless of employment duration. After the first work day the employee receives paid sick time under the Act, an employer may require the employee to follow reasonable notice procedures to continue receiving the benefit.

Rate of pay: For reasons Nos. 1-3, amount of pay shall not exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate. For reasons Nos. 4-6, amount of pay shall not exceed $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate and shall be at two-thirds the employee’s amount of regular pay.

Exclusion for health care providers/emergency responders: Employers of health care providers or emergency responders may elect to exclude such an employee from the above.

Duration of paid sick time: Full-time employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick time. Part-time employees receive proportional hours equal to the average hours worked over a two-week period. Availability of such sick time shall not carry over from year to year.

Application: Eligible employees may choose whether to use this leave before other leave to which they may be entitled. Employers violate this law if they require employees to use other types of paid leave first. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to diminish the rights or benefits an employee is entitled to under any other law, collective bargaining agreement or existing employer policy. Nor does the Act require financial or other reimbursement to an employee upon the employee’s separation from employment for paid sick time under this Act that has not been used by the employee.

Posting: A model notice is to be drafted by the Secretary of Labor within seven days of enactment. Employers must post.

Prohibited acts, enforcement: Employers may not discharge, discipline or otherwise discriminate against any employee who takes leave under this law or files a complaint or testifies in a proceeding regarding an alleged violation. Violations of this law will be enforced under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

It is important for members to continue to work closely with the county attorney and/or employment counsel to ensure compliance with changing federal rules.

Corrected March 31, 2020: Clarification was added to the application of the law section.