Updated: April 2, 2020
Lay of the Land Pre COVID-19
Generally speaking, federal law does not require employers to provide it’s employees with paid sick and vacation days. For qualifying individuals, we do have up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employers are allowed to give employees paid sick and personal days, but are not required to do so. If employers do provide these benefits, there are often restrictions/rules attached to them.
New Legislation Passed March 18
On March 18 President Trump signed into law H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This is a financial relief package for the American people that includes free COVID-19 testing and paid emergency leave for some employees. This was finalized after the Senate and House of Representatives worked on various proposals.
How this Impacts the Education World in Terms Of…
Paid Sick Leave:
While a great deal of private employers are exempt from this new paid leave requirement, many public employers, including school districts, are covered. Therefore, eligible employees could receive paid sick leave if they are:
- subject to quarantine by either government mandate or a healthcare provider
- experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis
- caring for an individual who is subject to either order above
- caring for a son or daughter as a result of a school or daycare closure
If you are a full-time employee that meets one of the above requirements you could receive up to eighty hours of paid sick leave. Part-time employees can receive a reduced amount based on the number of hours worked. Eligible employees will receive either their regular pay rate, or two-thirds their regular pay rate, depending on the reason for leave. There are also caps to the daily rate and cumulative benefits you can receive under this emergency paid sick leave provision.
FMLA has been temporarily expanded in certain situations to help employees impacted by the coronavirus. Unlike traditional FMLA, you need only work for 30 days for your employer to be eligible for these benefits. Under this provision, an employee may receive ten weeks of paid leave at two-thirds their normal rate of pay if they are unable to work because they must care for a son or daughter due to a school or daycare closure. If your school provides you the resources to work from home (telework) you are not eligible for this FMLA expansion. Under this new FMLA provision, an employee would take ten days of unpaid leave before receiving the paid FMLA leave. During this unpaid period an employee can use any paid time they have accrued to get paid.
To summarize, an individual is eligible for 10 days of paid sick leave if they are quarantined, seeking a diagnosis, or caring for another individual. An individual is eligible for 10-weeks of paid FMLA at 2/3rds their regular pay rate to care for a child due to a school or daycare closure.
The new federal law provides other assistance to further help individuals during the COVID-19 situation. This includes funding to offer free testing of COVID-19 for individuals, along with financial assistance for unemployment benefit programs, food and nutritional programs, and other programs to support at-risk individuals during this time.
Federal Department of Labor Clarification (Added to this document on 4/2/20)
On April 1st the Department of Labor published regulations and guidelines for this new law. There are two big take-aways from this update. First, there are notice and documentation requirements the employee must meet in order to be eligible for the financial benefits the law offers. Further, there is a laundry list of definitions that are very useful when determining how the law works in common practice. Some of the important definitions include what it means to be “subject to a quarantine or isolation order”, along with narrowing how many of us interpret “caring for a son or daughter”, or “caring for an individual”. This update by the Department of Labor was 124 pages. If you want more information on how this impacts you please contact the MSTA Legal Services Department, and we will gladly work through it with you.
The MSTA Legal Services Department is working hard to provide accurate information to inform you of what is happening as the COVID-19 situation continues to develop, and how it impacts our school communities. This is simply informational, and not legal advice. Should you have a question or concern about how these new laws, or any other laws or regulations, impact you specifically, please contact us at 866-343-6186 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.