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Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

Employment Law

6 minute read

Both of these Emergency Acts go into effect on April 2, 2020 and expire on December 31, 2020.  While the Emergency Acts are in effect, a significant financial burden will be placed on small and medium sized businesses (1-500 employees) by requiring employers to provide each employee with up to an aggregate of 14 weeks of leave, of which over 12 weeks must be paid.  The 14 weeks of leave is a combination of FMLA leave (12 weeks) and Sick Time pay (2 weeks).

In order for an employee to qualify for FMLA leave, s/he must have been employed for at least 30 days and needs the leave because s/he has actual or potential symptoms of COVID-19, or needs to care for children who are home from school because of or the employee is otherwise ordered to stay home by the government because of COVID-19 and cannot telework.

The first 10 days of FMLA leave may be unpaid, but the remaining time must be paid, though at a reduced rate of two-thirds of the employee’s salary for the regular hours worked, capped at $200 a day with an aggregate cap for the leave period of $10,000.

Certain occupations are exempted, such as first responders and healthcare providers.  Employers with less than 50 employees may seek an exemption for both the requirement to provide FMLA leave and to rehire an employee at the conclusion of his/her FMLA leave.  Employers with 25-500 employees cannot terminate employees out on FMLA leave.  

Employers (1-500 employees) must also offer their employees paid sick time leave for such matters as caring for children home from school because of, caring for family members with, staying at home because of, or having actual or potential symptoms of COVID-19.  The period of sick time leave is 80 hours for full time employees and less for part-time employees.  The Act places caps on the amount of paid sick time, which are based on the nature of the sick time requested as defined by the Act:   $511 per day, with an aggregate total of $5,110 or $200 day, with an aggregate total of $2,000.  Sick time is deemed to be wages (failure to pay sick time is a wage and hour violation).  There appears to be no exemption that can be sought to avoid the payment of sick time.

The above is brief overview of the highpoints of the Emergency Acts. If you have question or wish to engage in a more in-depth discussion, please contact Tim Cutler at (617) 232-7501.

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