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What Are the Families First Coronavirus Act and Emergency FMLA?

Page with title Paid family leave and gavel.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the normal operations of many businesses around the country, along with just about every other aspect of our lives.  Many companies have suffered losses and have been forced to furlough employees, cut pay, and even conduct layoffs.  These hardships have not, however, stripped employees of their legal rights.  Congress has made some efforts to protect businesses and workers around the country.  Read on to learn about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and its constituent parts, including the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

The FFCRA and the EFMLA

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is a federal law requiring covered employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specific reasons related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The FFCRA includes the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLA), an expansion to employee rights under the FMLA, as well as the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Qualifying employers will be provided with tax credits for the costs of providing employees with leave provided for under the terms of the act.

Broadly, the FFCRA provides that covered employees are eligible for the following:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee is either subject to quarantine or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and waiting for a diagnosis;
  • Two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s pay when the employee cannot work due to the need to take care of another individual subject to quarantine or experiencing coronavirus symptoms, or to take care of a child whose school or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19;
  • Up to 10 weeks additional paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds pay when an employee (who has been employed for at least 30 days) is unable to work due to the need to take care of a child whose school or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.

These provisions apply to certain public employers as well as private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption if following the requirements of the FFCRA would endanger the business as a going concern.

DOL Clarifies Paid Leave Requirements

On September 11, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) revised the regulations modified under the FFCRA in order to clarify worker rights and employer responsibilities concerning paid sick leave and family medical leave The revised regulations were issued as a response to a federal judge invalidating several of the original provisions. The revisions are a mixed bag in terms of both helping and hurting workers.

As explained in a statement from the DOL and from further analysis, the recent revisions do the following:

  • Clarify the requirements that employees can take FFCRA leave only if work would be available to them (meaning that an employee already on mandatory leave would not qualify for benefits);
  • Reaffirm that employer approval is required to take FFCRA leave intermittently;
  • Restrict the definition of “healthcare providers,” who are excluded from the leave entitlement, to include only employees who meet the definition of that term under the FMLA or who are employed to provide certain healthcare services;
  • Clarify that workers must provide documentation proving their need for FFCRA leave as soon as practicable, rather than before obtaining sick leave.

If your FMLA rights have been denied in a Texas workplace, you can rely on the passionate and dedicated employment attorneys at Tremain Artaza PLLC for advice and representation. Our attorneys are committed to justice and protecting the families of workers across Texas.  Submit your case for our review for free online at https://www.tremainartaza.com/intake/, or schedule a low cost telephone consultation with us, https://www.tremainartaza.com/consult/.

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