Even with stay-in-place orders established by our state government, the spread of COVID-19 continues. The news of additional people testing positive for COVID-19 is staggering and the news of additional deaths due to COVID-19 is heartbreaking. As we have all been told, stay home and save lives but for many people, the struggle of being able to earn an income to provide for our families is an additional stressor.
Some of our friends, neighbors, and family members are considered essential employees and must report to work and are put at risk, almost daily, to potentially contract COVID-19. These include jobs in healthcare, businesses and government agencies, law offices, State agencies, and financial institutions. Some of these workers have jobs that simply do not permit the option of working from home. Luckily, our firm has the technological ability to allow all of our staff to work from home and continue to provide our clients and our future clients our services during this time but not all employers or employees have that option.
For those who are working from home or have been laid off or furloughed or live with an essential worker, the risk is still out there. Sometimes we need to leave the house for grocery shopping or to pick up a prescription or two. Sure, food delivery is a lifesaver, literally and figuratively speaking, however, what happens if we do venture out to work, the pharmacy, or the grocery store and get sick? What if our family member comes home and transmits the virus? What happens if we begin to have symptoms of COVID-19 and are diagnosed with the virus? Are there guidelines in place to secure our wages when infected and fighting this virus?
Congress has enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. As of April 1, 2020, this Act provides for the protection of an employee’s wages and job should we fall ill with COVID-19. This Act protects the health and safety of yourself, loved ones, and co-workers. It also provides for financial protection for individuals who have tested positive with COVID-19 and for those who are taking care of a loved one diagnosed with COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes different divisions outlining the new Act’s legislature for new laws and various existing laws. This Division awards paid sick time for employees who have contracted COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, and/or for an employee taking care of a loved one diagnosed with COVID-19.
The Act, under Division E, provides that employers must pay an employee for sick time equal to the amount of hours the employee works. A full-time employee shall receive eighty (80) hours of sick pay due to COVID-19, and a part-time employee shall receive paid sick leave equal to the average amount of hours worked per week. Essentially, your employer is required to pay you for your time off work due to COVID-19 symptoms and/or diagnosis of you and/or a family member. Employers are cannot require employees to use other paid sick time or paid time off before using the paid sick leave provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Paid sick time provided under this Act is not available to carry over into the next year. Division E of the Act also provides for paid leave for parents whose children are not able to attend school or daycare due to COVID-19 closures and their employer does not provide them with the option to work remotely. The same rules apply when a parent needs to care for a child while schools and daycares are closed. These parents are paid eighty (80) hours for full-time employees and part-time employees receive pay equal to the amount of hours worked.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is available to view online. Know your rights under the Act and make sure your employer is following the legislation. Contact your employer with this information should you or a family member be confined at home due to COVID-19.
We hope that you stay safe and healthy.
Written by Laura A. Kennard
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