In Absence, Blogs, COVID-19

April 9th, 2020

With COVID-19 significantly affecting employees’ ability to work — whether they have become ill with the virus, they must take care of someone who is sick, take care of children due to a lack of childcare, or their employer has been shut down — the pandemic has caused legislation to be passed at both the federal and state level. 

Keeping up with the latest regulatory changes has been a challenge for many employers even before COVID-19. With that ever-changing regulatory landscape now evolving at an even faster pace, ClaimVantage has compiled a list of federal and state leave legislation passed due to COVID-19. 

Given each law’s complexity, this blog post, which will be updated as new legislation is passed, contains a high-level overview of the law. We’ve provided links out to other resources for additional information.

Please keep in mind that laws may vary by employer size, jurisdiction, sector, and other factors. The content provided on this page is a brief overview, is not intended to be exhaustive, and is not legal advice. For your own specific jurisdiction and organization’s laws, please contact legal counsel to ensure compliance.

COVID-19 Federal Legislation

On April 1, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) went into effect. This federal law applies to employers in the private sector with fewer than 500 employees, and to public employers of any size. There are two core components of the FFCRA: emergency FMLA and emergency paid sick leave. 

The emergency FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for a qualified need related to a Public Health Emergency. The only “qualified need” under this law is when an employee is unable to work or telework because they no longer have access to childcare or their child’s school has been closed. Employees are eligible after 30 days on the employer’s payroll. The hours-worked and worksite size criteria under “regular” FMLA don’t apply. Under this law, the first two weeks are unpaid, while the final 10 weeks are paid at two-thirds the regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day.

The emergency paid sick leave provides two weeks of paid leave for employees who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a diagnosis, subject to an order or recommendation to quarantine, caring for someone in one of those situations, providing care because a school or childcare provider is unavailable, or other qualifying reasons. All employees of covered employers can take this leave. It requires the employer to pay the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to a maximum amount that depends on why they’re unable to work or telework.  

The Department of Labor has issued a list of Q&As regarding the new law, which can be found here.

California COVID-19 Legislation

California has issued guidance that COVID-19 will be considered a serious health condition for the purposes of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Employees may be entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave under the CFRA for a qualifying serious health condition reason.

If an employee is sick, or if they’re caring for a family member who is sick, and if the employee is eligible and has time remaining, CFRA can be approved for these absences. CFRA has not been expanded to cover school closures or quarantine orders.

Additionally, California has stated that employees who are unable to work or telework because they need to care for an ill or quarantined family member may file a California Paid Family Leave claim.

New Jersey COVID-19 Legislation

New Jersey has clarified that care of a family member in quarantine is considered a serious health condition for the purposes of New Jersey Family Leave Insurance and the New Jersey Family Leave Act. This is a permanent amendment, so the reasons will continue to be applicable in any other future public health emergencies.

New Jersey has also expanded the New Jersey Earned Sick and Safe Leave Law (NJESSL) to include additional reasons that employers must allow employees to use their leave. Among the reasons is closure of their workplace, or the school or place of care of their child, because of a state of emergency declared by the governor. 

On April 14, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that further amends the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA) to expand leave rights for employees who need to care for family members due to known or suspected exposure to COVID-19.

The expanded definition of family leave now provides employees with the ability to use New Jersey FLA for leave “in the event of a state of emergency declared by the Governor, or when indicated to be needed by the Commissioner of Health or other public health authority, an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to the communicable disease, or efforts to prevent spread of a communicable disease.”

 Employees may now request a leave under the FLA include:

  • Care for a child due to school/daycare closures;
  • Caring for someone who’s subject to a quarantine order; and
  • Caring for someone who’s choosing to self-quarantine due to suspected exposure.

For additional details on the new legislation in New Jersey, please refer to the state’s Department of Labor page on COVID-19.

New York COVID-19 Legislation

New York passed legislation to provide employees with paid or unpaid leave if they are under mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation order due to COVID-19. Employees working for employers with a net income of at least $1 million or if they employ at least 11 employees, are entitled to at least five paid sick days. 

Employees working for an employer with at least 100 employees are entitled to at least 14 days of paid sick leave, with additional unpaid job protected leave available for the duration of their quarantine. 

New York’s existing Paid Family Leave and Temporary Disability Insurance programs are covering some absences related to COVID-19. 

For more information, please refer to the state’s website and the New York Paid Family Leave website

Oregon COVID-19 Legislation

Oregon has passed a temporary amendment to the “sick child” leave provisions of the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). With the amendment, employees may take leave to care for their child whose school or place of care has been closed due to a public health emergency in Oregon. The amendment went into effect on March 18 and will be in effect until September 13, 2020.

Washington, D.C. COVID-19 Legislation

From March 17 to June 15, 2020, Washington, D.C. has extended DCFMLA to include a new category of leave: declaration of emergency leave. Under the new leave type, an employee may take leave if they are unable to work because the mayor has declared a public health emergency, and the employee has been ordered to self-isolate or quarantine by a medical professional, or a federal or state official. 

The amended DCFMLA applies to District of Columbia employers of all sizes and also waives the previous eligibility requirement of one year of employment and 1,000 hours worked.

For more information on Washington D.C., visit the Washington Department of Labor page.

ClaimVantage will continue to update this blog with new state and federal legislation updates.

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