Some help for Oklahoma employers understanding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Along with President Trump’s national emergency declaration because of the Coronavirus and COVID-19, comes additional obligations for business, including new obligations to employees who miss time at work. 

Overview: Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The new law is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”).  Division C of the Act (the “Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act”) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. 
Division E of the Act (the “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act”).

For most employers reading this Blog Post, the Act contains NEW requirements (at least temporarily) to provide leave to employees, when you probably did not have an obligation to provide leave before the new law.  Note:  If your business is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (more about that here), you are not subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  Wondering if your business is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act? Check out this Blog Post for guidance.

The Act is very new, so new in fact that the United States Department of Labor has yet to issue any regulations for the Act.  The lack of regulations from the USDOL means we will have unanswered questions (the USDOL website suggests it may issue regulations in April 2020).  Working, however, with the information we do have, below is an executive summary of the Act and then questions and answers which should provide you with a sound understanding of the Act and how (or if in some cases) it applies to your business:

 

Executive Summary of the Act

 —> Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or

—>Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (according to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition; and

—>Up to an additional ten weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Questions and Answers: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

 

What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act ( the “Act”) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. 

Which government agency enforces the Act?

The Department of Labor. Through its Wage & Hour Division, will administer and enforce the Act. 

When does the Act start, and how long does the Act last?

The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

To which businesses does the Act apply? 

Under the Act, “covered employers” are certain public (Government) employers and private employers who employ fewer than 500 people.

What does the Act require employers to do?

 

Provide employees with paid leave along these lines:

  • Leave at Regular Pay Rate.
    Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Leave at 2/3rds of employee’s regular pay rate.
    Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition.

How long is the Act effective?

The Act becomes effective April 1, 2020, and runs through December 31, 2020.

What employees are covered by the Act?

(a) All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for specified reasons related to COVID-19, or (b) Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional ten weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19.

What reasons qualify an employee for leave under the Act?

Employees qualify for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because of:

  1. Quarantine.  The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. Self-Quarantine. A health care provider has advised the employee to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
  3. Experiencing Symptoms. The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis
  4. Caring for Person.  The employee is caring for an individual subject to an order described above or a person who self-quarantined as described above;
  5. Caring for Child. The employee is caring for a child whose school or care place is closed (or no child care is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. Similar Condition.  The employee is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Government

How much leave does an employee get?

For reasons 1-4 and 6 above – a full-time employee is eligible for up to 80 hours of leave, and part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave the employee works on average over two weeks.  

How much leave does an employee who is caring for a child receive?

For reason five above, a full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave (two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family & medical leave) at 40 hours a week. A part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is typically scheduled to work over that period.

How does an employer calculate pay?

  • Reasons 1, 2, or 3 above: Employees taking leave are entitled to pay at either their regular rate or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $511 per day, and $5,110 in the aggregate (over 2-weeks).
  • Reasons 4 or 6: Employees taking leave are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day, and $2,000 in the aggregate (over 2-weeks).
  • Reason 5: Employees taking leave are entitled to pay at 2/3 their regular rate or 2/3 the applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, up to $200 per day, and $12,000 in the aggregate (over 12-weeks). 

What if complying with the Act’s paid leave requirements would crush my small business and maybe put me out of business?

There is a small business exemption: To choose the small business exemption, you must document (in writing) why you believe your Oklahoma small business meets the criteria set forth by the Department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations (How about that?!? You are required to comply with regulations that do not exist yet!).

Do I have to post Notice about the Act at my business?

Yes.  The USDOL has provided mandatory posters regarding employee rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Ac.  All private-sector employers with fewer than 500 employees are required to place the poster in a conspicuous area, which will generally be alongside your other federally mandated employee notices, you can find the post here. Additionally, you can find answers to questions about posting the Notice here.

 

The US Department of Labor also has some excellent resources on the Act, including a Q&A, a Fact Sheet for Employers, and a Fact Sheet for Employees.

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Cazes Roberts, PLLC in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with wife Amy and my two children, Sam (17) and David (9). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."