Resources for Employers

Employers have questions about how to handle employees' issues arising from the coronavirus crisis.  Also, the federal government has adopted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, affecting health plans, paid sick leave for certain employers, and expanded protections under the Family Medical Leave Act.  All employers are required to post a notice regarding employees' rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What if an employee refuses to attend work for fear of coronavirus? A generalized fear of the coronavirus is not a basis to refuse to attend work.  Employees can only refuse to attend work if there is a reasonable expectation that they’ll be infected by the coronavirus at work and it will shorten their life or cause a substantial impact. 

  • What if an employee refuses to travel for fear or coronavirus?  Considering increasing governmental restrictions on travel, forcing an employee to travel may put you at risk of legal claims by employees.  Alternative communication methods using technology should be considered instead.

  • Can I stop an employee from traveling on personal time? You cannot prohibit your employees from traveling (or doing any other legal activity).  However, you can educate your employees on the risk of travel during this time and require them to work remotely for a period after returning.

  • Is an employee sick due to the coronavirus eligible for sick pay?  In some states, this is governed by your employment practices and policies and in other states paid sick leave is required by law.  Review your policies and the legal requirements in your location for details.

  • What should I do if someone who has coronavirus comes into the workplace?  You should send the infected person home and consider also sending home any other employees who came in contact with the infected person.  You should also consider a deep cleaning of the affected workspaces by a professional cleaner. 

  • What if the workplace needs to close? You should consider the ability of employees to work from home (but also consider your obligations regarding confidential information and IT security).  You should also review your obligations regarding compensation of your employees (paid time off, etc.) and health benefits.  If it’s necessary to conduct layoffs, consider whether you need to comply with the WARN act by giving prior notice of mass layoffs. 

  • Can I require employees to self-quarantine? Yes.  However, if an employee is not sick and is able to attend work, you are still required to pay their salary and benefits if you instruct them to stay home.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a federal law affecting health plans, paid sick leave for certain employers, and expanded protections under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

  • Health Plans: The Act requires that group health plans cover the costs associated with COVID-19 testing with no cost-sharing. 

  • Paid Sick Leave:  Employers must provide paid sick leave for any qualified full-time or part-time employee who cannot work because they (1) are subject to a governmental quarantine order; (2) have been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to coronavirus; (3) have coronavirus symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis; (4) are caring for someone affected by one of the foregoing; or (5) are caring for a child whose childcare provider is closed due to coronavirus. 

  • If the employee is sick or is in quarantine, sick leave is paid based on the higher of the employee’s regular rate of pay or up to $511 per date and $5,110 in the aggregate. If the employee is caring for a family member or child, sick leave is paid based on 2/3 of the regular rate of pay up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate. Affected employers are eligible for a refundable payroll tax credit to cover the costs of the extended paid leave and health benefit costs.

  • Emergency FMLA Changes: Employers with fewer than 500 employees must allow a qualified employee to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave if the employee needs to stay home to care for a child due to an emergency school closure.  The first 10 days of leave may be unpaid, although the employee can use vacation, personal, or sick leave.  The remainder of the leave must be paid at no less than 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay based on the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work, but no more than $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. 

  • Employers must continue offering group health benefits on the same terms as if the employee was actively at work during the FMLA leave.  Affected employers are eligible for a refundable payroll tax credit to cover the costs of the extended paid leave and health benefit costs.

Required Notice to Employees

Every covered employer must post this notice of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in an conspicuous place.  You can also satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing the notice to employees, or posting it on your internal or external website.  Additional guidance on how to use the notice is available here.

 
 
 

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