Saturday, March 14, 2020

BREAKING: House passes broad coronavirus stimulus and relief package, including paid sick and family leave

It’s been 12 days since I asked if coronavirus the thing that will finally make paid family and sick leave a national reality. Twelve days in the COVID-19 news cycle feels like 12 years. Regardless, I am happy to report that in the very early hours of this morning, by a bipartisan vote of 363-40, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, sweeping legislation that will provide myriad emergency relief to businesses and individuals, including paid family and sick leave.

Shortly after the House passed the bill, President Trump tweeted his support, virtually assuring a swift run through the Senate and his signature.

It will amend the FMLA for Coronavirus-related leaves through the end of the year as follows:

  1. It amends to the definition of employee to anyone who has been employed by an employer for at least 30 days.
  2. It changes the definition of employer from "50 or more employees" to "fewer than 500 employees."
  3. It expands the definition of parent to include foster and adoptive parents, step-parents, parents of a domestic partner, parental in-laws, guardians, and those who stood in loco parentis.
  4. It provides leave to provide care for a family member who is under a coronavirus-related quarantine.
  5. It provides leave to care for a minor son or daughter of an employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, related to coronavirus.
  6. It expands the definition of family member to include next of kin and grandparents.
  7. It provides that leave after the first 14 days of any coronavirus-related family leave it to be paid in an amount that is not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours the employee otherwise would have worked.
  8. It requires job restoration following any such leave for any employee of an employer with 25 or more employees.

It will also provide 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees (or pro-rata for part-time employees) for the following reasons:

  1. To self-isolate because the employee is diagnosed with coronavirus. 
  2. To obtain a medical diagnosis or care if such employee is experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus.
  3. To comply with a recommendation or order by a public official or a health care provider on the basis that the physical presence of the employee on the job would jeopardize the health of others because the employee was exposed to coronavirus or is exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.
  4. To care for or assist a family member of the employee who is self-isolating because a family member has been diagnosed with coronavirus or is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and needs to obtain medical diagnosis or care. 
  5. To care for a family member if a public official or a health care provider makes a determination that the presence of the family member in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the exposure of such family member to the coronavirus exhibition of symptoms of coronavirus by such family member.
  6. To care for the child of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider of such child is unavailable because of coronavirus.

Importantly, if an employer already offers paid sick leave to its employees, coronavirus paid sick leave must be in addition to the already-existing leave, and an employer cannot amend its sick leave policy to avoid offering additional leave. The bill also prohibits discrimination or retaliation. Finally, to help defray the cost of the paid leave, the bill makes available a tax credit equal to 100 percent of sick leave wages paid by an employer.

This leave is vitally necessary now, and is a strong first step to making permanent paid family and sick leave a national reality after this crisis ends.

This is a developing issue. I’ll provide further updates and guidance as necessary.