Coronavirus Laws – What Business Owners Need to Know

Here is valuable information for business owners related to new legislation dealing with the effects of COVID-19. On March 18, the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law.  Here are highlights of two parts of the law that you need to know about right away.

Please understand that this situation is changing daily and various governmental agencies will be providing guidance continually.  If you have any specific situations related to your business or employees, please feel free to schedule a call with me using this link.

For both the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, the following apply:

  • The law grants the Secretary of Labor the authority to issue regulations exempting: (1) certain health care providers and emergency responders from taking leave under the bill; and (2) small business with fewer than 50 employees from the requirements of the bill if it would jeopardize the viability of the business. (At this point, no information has been provided on how to apply for this exemption.)
  • Tax credits available to employers. Please speak with your tax advisor.
  • Employer should document as payments not “wages”

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
Effective April 1 through December 31, 2020

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.

  • 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: FMLA has been expanded to include employees who are unable to work (or telework) due to the need to care for a son or daughter under age 18 if the school or place of care has been closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.
  • Duration: The duration is that applicable to the existing FMLA, 12 weeks.
  • Compensation: The first 10 days for which an employee takes leave may consist of unpaid leave. The employee can use available sick time or PTO/vacation, but the employer cannot require this. 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).
  • Employee’s job must be restored after the employee returns to work, unless the company has fewer than 25 employees and the job no longer exists due to COVID-19.  In this case, the employer has an obligation to try for one year to contact the employee if an equivalent position opens

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
Effective April 1 through December 31, 2020

This provision provides for 10 days of mandatory paid sick leave for COVID-19-related events. Below are some of its key provisions.

  • Employer Threshold: Applicable to all private employers with fewer than 500 employees
  • Qualified Employees: Leave is available to all employees for immediate use, regardless of how long they have been employed.
  • 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, available immediately after the Act becomes effective. Part-time employees get the equivalent of the average number of hours they work in two weeks. There is no carry-over – the sick time ends when the employee returns to work.
  • Existing Policies: Emergency paid sick time under the Act is in addition to existing paid sick leave under employers’ existing policies and Arizona state law. 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).
  • Compensation: Employees are entitled to this leave at their regular rate of pay, at a minimum of Arizona’s current minimum wage of $12/hour, up to $511/day; however, 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.
  • Limits: As always, employers are prohibited from discharging or discriminating against employees using sick leave

Next Steps

  • If your company is covered by these new laws, promptly issue new or revised  policies that conform to these requirements.
  • Continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and WHO with regard to COVID-19 workplace safety practices.
  • Whenever possible, arrange for your employees to work from home to reduce the risk of exposure at your workplace while continuing to conduct business.
  • Continue to monitor news reports about updates to laws and safety practices.

This is a very confusing and uncertain time.  Please use good sense and treat your workers with kindness as we try to navigate through this together.

NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, NOR DOES IT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. EACH SITUATION IS DIFFERENT. YOU SHOULD CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY TO DETERMINE YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS, REMEDIES, AND DUTIES.

By Wendy M. Anderson, Esq.
Law Office of Wendy Anderson, PLLC
480-825-4509
Contact Me Today