Smith Currie & Hancock LLP Law Firm Answers Members' Questions Regarding Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Question: Are we obligated to pay employees who are waiting on test results?
Answer: The paid sick leave required by the FFCRA applies to an employee under #3 above who is 1) experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and 2) seeking a medical diagnosis. But depending on why they are out, if due to numbers 1 or 2, they still may be eligible.
For instance, a local health law where the jobsite is located requires all employees to be tested where a positive case has occurred and you have to test your employees at the jobsite, even though they have no symptoms, a conservative approach is to pay them.
If the employee sought testing but has not experienced COVID-19 symptoms, are not under an isolation order, or are not self-quarantining on advice of a health care provider, they are not eligible for FFCRA paid sick leave benefits under that provision. The employee would, however, still be entitled to use any other accrued leave pay in accordance with applicable laws and policies.
Question: Are we obligated to pay employees who missed work because they were sick and awaiting test results which then came back negative for COVID?
Answer: Generally, yes. The provisions for paid sick leave do not require that an employee be
diagnosed with COVID-19 to be eligible for paid sick leave while seeking a medical diagnosis,
as long as their symptoms were consistent with those of COVID-19.
Question: It is our understanding that essential workers should and can work as long as he or she has no symptoms, even with a possible exposure in the same household. If the employee still chooses to stay home, do we have any obligation to pay?
The FFCRA does not distinguish between essential and non-essential employees. Even if an employee is not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they may have a basis to stay home under the FFCRA. If an employee does not come to work because they are covered by a legal stay-at-home order, or are self-quarantining on the advice of a health care provider, the employee is entitled to up to 80 hours of sick pay (pro-rated for part-time employees) as described above.
In those cases, the employee is entitled to sick leave paid at their regular rate up to $511 per day and $5,110 in aggregate. However, if they can telework, they can work from home and you would pay them regularly and not under the FFCRA.
Even if the employee is not ill, quarantined, or awaiting test results, they may choose not to report to work because they are caring for someone else subject to a stay-at-home order, are caring for a child if the child’s school or child care is closed due to COVID-19, or is experiencing other conditions specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services as describe above. In those cases, the employee is entitled to sick leave paid at two-thirds of their
regular rate, capped at $200 per day and $2,000 total.
In addition to paid sick leave, the FFCRA provides for additional family leave benefits under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). Under the EFMLEA and the Family Medical Leave Act, a covered employee is entitled to a combined total of 12 weeks of leave. An employee may take leave under the EFMLEA only to care for a child under 18 whose school is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.
The first 10 days of EFMLEA leave are unpaid, unless the employee opts to use accrued vacation, personal, or sick leave time. An employer cannot require the employee to use accrued paid leave time during this 10-day period. All EFMLEA days in excess of 10 are to be paid at two-thirds of the employee’s normal rate, with a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 total.
Question: Is an employer liable for more than 80 hours of paid sick leave per employee? Is a single employee eligible for this multiple times?
Answer: The FFCRA limits an employer’s obligation to 80 hours of paid sick leave through December 31, 2020. An employee may use those hours in increments, such as for multiple absences for covered reasons, but only up to 80 hours through the end of 2020.
Question: We received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. Are we entitled to a tax credit for FFCRA payments?
Answer: An employer that received a PPP loan and has paid employees for absences covered by the FFCRA using PPP funds may choose to include those payments in a PPP forgiveness application, or take a tax credit for FFCRA payments, but not both.