President Trump Signs Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the U.S. Senate voted to approve the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as authorized and passed by the House of Representatives. The bill was sent to the White House that same day, and was signed into law by President Trump that evening.

The rule compels employers with more than 50 and fewer than 500 employees to provide 80 hours of paid sick leave to full-time employees. It also requires part-time employees to be provided a number of paid sick leave hours that equals the number of hours that employee works on average over a two-week period. To be eligible, employees must meet one of the following criteria:

  • 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 as described in criteria number one above, or has been advised as described in criteria number two.
  • The employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such child is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
  • The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

In general, an employee may first use the paid sick time provided by this rule for the purposes described above. The rule also states that an employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave provided by the employer before the employee may use the sick leave provided for under this rule. 

The Coronavirus Response Act also expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to require private employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for “a qualifying need related to a public health emergency.” This leave must be provided to all employees who have been employed for 30 days. The amount of paid leave is limited, on a per individual basis, to no more than $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.

Look for additional COVID-19 legislation to be announced by the federal government over the next 1-2 weeks, including an economic stimulus bill and additional economic support proposals for small businesses, who are likely to be among the hardest hit by the pandemic.