President Trump Signs The Families First Coronavirus Response Act Into Law

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020 the U.S. Senate passed the House’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act by a vote of 90-8 (Arizona Senators McSally and Sinema voted in favor of the bill). President Trump signed the bill into law late Wednesday night. The new law comes into effect on April 2, 2020.

The Coronavirus Response Act contains provisions including funding for nutrition assistance programs, funding for the Senior Nutrition Program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL), reimbursement for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services for those without health insurance, funding for COVID-19 diagnostic testing for veterans, health plan testing coverage, additional grants to states for unemployment insurance compensations, tax credits to self-employed individuals to cover losses due to quarantine and isolation, and central to our discussion, job-protected COVID-19-related paid sick leave and expanded Family Medical Leave Act, as well as tax credits to employers to subsidize paid this leave.

Below is a summary of the key leave-related elements of the bill.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

This provision provides for two weeks of mandatory paid sick leave for COVID-19-related events. Below are some of its key provisions. Notably, when the bill originally passed in the House on March 13, the “uses” and “compensation” provisions were more broad; the House passed a corrected version of the bill on March 16, which is the version that the Senate passed and is now law.

  • Covered Employers: Applicable to all private employers with fewer than 500 employees.
  • Uses:     Sick leave is available for employees for the following uses:
    • The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
    • The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
    • The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
    • The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order or has been advised as above.
    • The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
  • Duration: Full time employees get 80 hours of leave; part-time employees get the equivalent of the average number of hours they work in two weeks.
  • Existing Policies: Paid sick time under the act is in addition to existing paid leave under employers’ existing policies. Employees may use this paid time before any other paid time off, but employers may not force employees to use other paid time off first (i.e., this time is cumulative to any other paid time off policies).
  • Qualified Employees: Leave is available to all employees for immediate use, regardless of how long they have been employed.
  • Compensation: Employees are entitled to this leave at their regular rate of pay, at a minimum of Arizona’s current minimum wage ($12.00/hr.),  up to $511/day; except that employees who use this time to care for a family member or child may be paid at a rate of 2/3 their regular rate of pay or minimum wage, up to $200/day.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

This provision expands FMLA to apply to employees who must care for children due to school closures. Below are a few key elements of the expanded FMLA provisions. Notably, when the bill originally passed in the House on March 13, the “uses” and “compensation” provisions were broader than the corrected version that was eventually signed into law.

  • Employer Threshold: The coronavirus-related sections are applicable to all private employers with fewer than 500 employees
  • Eligible Employee: The term ‘eligible employee’ means an employee who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer with respect to whom leave is requested under these coronavirus-related provisions.
  • Uses: Because of a qualifying need related to a public health emergency. This means the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.
  • Duration: The duration is that applicable to the existing FMLA, 12 weeks.
  • Compensation: The first 14 days for which an employee takes leave may consist of unpaid leave; the remaining time must be paid at a rate of 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay (for the number of hours the employee normally works per week) up to $200 per day (or $10,000 total).

This is just a summary of some of the key provisions that affect Arizona employers. Navigating these new leave requirements, in conjunction with Arizona employers’ existing state law paid sick leave obligations, may be novel and complicated. RL&L attorneys are available to help with any questions or concerns you may have concerning how this new law affects your business.

Disclaimer: The foregoing is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have any questions or require any assistance, please contact RL&L at 520-792-4800 or 480-663-9800.