On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed H.R. 6201, also known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”), into law. The Act is a relief package designed to help workers financially impacted by the global COVID-19 pandemic. The Act contains multiple provisions with significant importance and immediate potential impact of which employers should be aware.
First, the Act applies only to employers with fewer than 500 employees. It should be noted that the employers with less than 50 employees may potentially be able to receive exemption from certain provisions of the Act from the U.S. Department of Labor if the employer would otherwise be at risk of going out of business.
Second, the Act serves both as a temporary requirement for employers to offer paid sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19 (the “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act”) as well as a temporary expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 (through the “Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act”).
The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act allows employees to take up to two weeks of leave with 100% pay. All full- and part-time employees of companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible for benefits under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act if: (1) they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19; (2) a health care provider has advised them to self-quarantine; (3) They are subject to a federal, state or local quarantine; (4) they are caring for their children (under age 18) whose school or place of care has been closed due to COVID-19; or (5) they are caring for someone who is self-quarantined or is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine due to COVID-19.
Full-time employees are eligible to receive up to eighty (80) hours of paid sick leave, while part-time employees are eligible to be paid for the average number of hours they typically work during a two-week period. So financially, what do the numbers look like? It’s pretty straightforward. Full-time employees will receive 80 hours of paid sick leave. Part-time employees will be paid for the average number of hours they typically work during a two-week period. Employees are also entitled to use all hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act prior to using any paid sick leave which was already being offered by the employer and which is available to those employees at the time of their leave.
Please note that, pursuant to the Act, it is the employer’s responsibility to advise your employees of their rights under the Act. A model notice has been made available by the Secretary of Labor at https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf .
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act is, as the name suggests, an extension of the current FMLA. All employees of companies with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act but only if they have worked for the employer for at least 30 days and they are unable to work because their child’s (18 years of age or younger) school or place of care has closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The first 10 days of this leave are unpaid. However, an eligible employee can choose to use paid sick leave or accrued vacation days during this unpaid period. After the initial 10 days, an employer is required to pay employees two-thirds of their normal wages, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total.
Both of the above sections of the Act go into effect, meaning employees become eligible for benefits under both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act, beginning on April 2, 2020 and remain effective through the end of the year.
The benefits of H.R. 6201 for employees are substantial, and, fortunately, the bill provides some relief for their employers too. Specifically, employers will receive a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified family leave wages paid under the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act for each calendar quarter. Additionally, employers will receive a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified sick leave wages paid under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act for each calendar quarter.
Lowe & Evander, P.A., understands the hard work and sacrifices it takes to become a health care professional or provider, and we aggressively defend health professionals in protecting their license, practice, career, assets and reputation. Using our experience and expertise, we navigate the obstacles our clients face, serving not only as their attorneys but also as their legal strategists, trusted advisors and protectors of their rights and interest against government investigations and lawsuits when necessary. Lowe & Evander, P.A., helps chart a course for its clients through the maze of state and federal health care laws, rules and regulations.
Our best to all of you out there taking care of patients and protecting us in these difficult and unsettling times. Stay safe!
The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information and content in this article are intended to convey general informational only and may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information. Readers of this article should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information in this article without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction. Only your individual attorney can provide assurances that the information contained herein – and your interpretation of it – is applicable or appropriate to your particular situation.
Brian C. Evander, Esquire , and Michael R. Lowe, Esquire, a Florida board-certified health law attorney, are partners at Lowe & Evander, P.A. Mr. Evander and Mr. Lowe regularly represent providers, physicians and other licensed health care professionals, and facilities in a wide variety of health care law matters.