President Trump signed into law the Emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”) on March 18, 2020. The Act mandates that employers provide employees with paid sick leave for a limited duration. Full time employees are entitled to two weeks of paid sick leave and hourly employees are entitled to the number of hours they work, on average, over a two week period.
Under the Act, if a fulltime employee has accrued or unused personal time, vacation days, or sick leave, the employee may use those days in addition to the two weeks provided for under the Act. An employer is prohibited from forcing an employee to use those accrued or unused days before the two weeks of paid sick leave go into effect.
Employees are entitled to their usual compensation during their sick leave if one of the following qualifying events occurs:
- The employee seeks a coronavirus diagnosis because the employee is experiencing symptoms; or
- The employee must self-isolate as a result of a confirmed diagnosis; or
- The employee is quarantined by order or recommendation of a public health official because of the potential exposure to the coronavirus or because that employee exhibits symptoms of the coronavirus.
Conversely, employees are entitled to compensation at two-third their regular rate of compensation if the sick leave provided for by the Act is taken as a result of the employee needing to care for a family member that is self-isolating because of: a coronavirus diagnosis, the exhibition of symptoms of coronavirus, or on order from a relevant authority. Employees are also entitled to compensation at two-third their regular rate of compensation if the employee is on leave for the purpose of caring for a minor child whose school has been closed due to the coronavirus for at least five consecutive days.
Generally, employers will file for tax credits to recoup the emergency paid sick leave compensation that they provide their employees under the Act. However, employers with fewer than 50 employees will apply for reimbursement for the emergency paid sick leave compensation provided to employees. Those employers will file an affidavit with the Secretary of Labor attesting to the additional paid sick time and provide related records associated with the emergency paid sick leave benefits. The Secretary will submit that affidavit to the Secretary of the Treasury, who will directly provide the employer with reimbursement.