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  • Kirstin Kennedy

What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

The response in Pennsylvania to global pandemic of Covid-19, known as the Coronavirus, has impacted every facet of daily life for all residents, especially in terms of employment. While it is critical to follow state-wide stay-at-home orders and health guidelines, many Pennsylvania workers have experienced stress related to significant employment changes. Workers across the state have seen reduced work hours and loss of wages, while others, who are still required to work, may fear exposure to the virus for themselves and their families.


It is difficult to navigate the evolving response that both the state and federal government has had to the pandemic, as well as to the economy and labor market. Below is a guide to the basics of a new federal law which targets American workers and seeks to support job protection for those who may be impacted by the Coronavirus in terms of their employment.

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”).

The provisions of the law ensure that employees who take leave though the emergency paid sick leave of the extended FMLA, known as FMLA+, will be able to resume the previous position when they return to work. Essentially, the act applies to those who still have jobs, but are unable to work for reasons related to the Coronavirus. Eligible employees include all workers of covered employers who were employed with the company for at least thirty days. Further, in order to take leave through FFCRA, employees must be unable to work or to telework, i.e. work from home.

However, there are some limitations. For example, employees who would have been laid off despite their use of the leave are not guaranteed to return to their position. The employer must be able to show that the layoff or other employment action would have taken place regardless of the FFCRA-related leave.

Notably, the act only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees. This means that large retailers, such as Target and Walmart, are exempt from the provisions of the FFCRA. Additionally, the law carves out some employers who can elect to be excluded from the law. This includes health care workers and emergency service employees. The law specifically excludes most government workers, including employees of the United States Postal Service.

In terms of calculating employees, employers should include all full-and part-time employees, temporary employees, and employees who were on leave at the time of the onset of the virus. Employers should not count those who had been previously paid off or independent contractors.

For more information of FFCRA, continue to read out series on the impact of the legislation and the various details related to employment under the act. Further information is also available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave. Additionally, attorneys at Ruppert Manes Narahari are well versed in the legislation and ready to offer guidance to concerned employees. Contact the office to schedule a consultation.

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