FMLA Expanded in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic
In response to the employment crisis related to the global Coronavirus pandemic, the federal government recently passed a law to support American workers during this challenging time.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law and took effect on April 1, 2020. The law remains in effect until December 31, 2020. Known as the FFCRA, there are two main components to the act: emergency paid sick leave and enhancements to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). This article focuses on the expansion to FMLA.
To start, FMLA allows workers in the United States to take unpaid leave from their employment for the purpose of attending to personal or familial needs. The act, commonly referred to as FMLA, protects an individual’s job while he or she takes leave for a designated period of time. Additionally, FMLA ensures that eligible employees are able to retain the same terms and conditions of their employer-provided health insurance for the duration of their leave.
Generally, individuals who are deemed eligible for FMLA are entitled to up to twelve weeks of protected leave in a twelve-month period. FLMA-protected leave can be granted for a variety of different reasons.
The expanded coverage applies to employees who have worked for their employer for at least thirty days. This differs from traditional FMLA coverage, which requires that the employee to have worked with the employer for at least one year for a minimum of 1,250 hours. The protection provided by the program ensure that employees will return to the same or substantially equivalent position at the end of their leave. However, there is an important exception. If the business or the employment site closes or if the employee would have been laid off regardless of their leave, the employee’s job is not protected.
The expanded program offers leave to the caregivers of children during the global crisis. Qualified employees under FMLA+ are those who are unable to work or telework because they need to take care of a child due to school or daycare closure. In order to qualify, there must be no other suitable care available for the child. In this circumstance, the employee is entitled to ten days of unpaid leave followed by 2/3 payment of their regular rate for the remaining leave. The first ten days can be substituted with accrued paid or unpaid time off. In terms of notice, employees should notify their employers as soon as possible as to their need to take leave through FMLA+. They are also required to provide the employer with information regarding the closure of the school or care provider, and must show that no other suitable care is available. Finally, if the child is age fourteen or above, the employee must explain while care is necessary.
Generally, FMLA can be taken on an intermittent basis. This means that the employee can use the leave as needed. FMLA+ can only be used intermittently if the employer agrees to the arrangement. Further, as is the case under the regular program, interference, discrimination, and retaliation for use of FMLA is prohibited.
For more information about FFCRA, read our series on the recent law. Additionally, if you require guidance in navigating FMLA+, please contact our office to set up a consultation with one of our excellent attorneys.