Legal Blog

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 14, the House passed emergency legislation to assist with paid sick leave during the pandemic. The Senate is expected to vote this week, but the President has expressed his support for the bill. The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and expire on December 31, 2020. Below is a summary of the most significant provisions for employers:

Expansion of the FMLA

  • Provides 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave;
    • However, the first 14 days may be unpaid and employees may use other PTO;
    • The remainder must be paid at 2/3 an employee’s regular rate of pay.
  • Paid leave must be afforded to employees working for an employer at least 30 days, and who need leave to care for a child if the child’s school or place of care has closed related to coronavirus.
  • These payments are limited to $200/day.

Paid Sick Leave

  • Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide full-time employees 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave. Part-time employees are due paid sick leave in an amount equal to the number of hours they typically work in 2 weeks;
  • Employees may take the paid leave for the following coronavirus related reasons:
    • To self-isolate because employee has coronavirus;
    • To obtain medical diagnosis or care if experiencing coronavirus symptoms;
    • To comply with recommendations of a public official or health care provider as stated above;
    • To care for family members for the same reasons; and
    • To care for a child whose school or place of care has closed related to coronavirus.
  • Employers must compensate employees for any paid sick leave at the higher of their regular rate of pay or minimum wage for leave related to their own symptoms, capped at $511/day, or exposure, and 2/3 regular rate to care for a family member, capped at $200/day.
  • This is in addition to paid sick leave already afforded by employers prior to the enactment date.

The bill also provides $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance (UI) relief to the states.

Coronavirus: Five Issues Employers Should Address

  1. Expanded Paid Leave: Review and consider how to temporarily expand your paid leave policy. However, consider the pending federal legislation prior to rolling out a temporary policy and its applicability.
  2. Know your Restrictions and Obligations: During a pandemic, employers have additional rights under the ADA’s direct threat exception, as well as the general duty under OSHA, to ask questions to detect potential coronavirus cases and protect your workforce.
  3. Preventative Measures: You can and should require your employees to engage in specific preventative measures, like hand washing and self-quarantining, the same way you would require them to adhere to a code of conduct.
  4. Consider Teleworking Options: Consider what positions may easily work remotely with straightforward solutions like access to internal networks and additional laptops. For others, consider how much you can limit the person’s time in the office or onsite.
  5. Paying Employees if Businesses Close: Understand your obligations to pay employees if your business closes. Generally, non-exempt employees need only be paid for the hours they actually work, but exempt employees must be paid for the week if they work any part of it. Also, understand your obligations under WARN and other applicable laws if implementing mass layoffs.


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