On March 18, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump signed into law legislation providing paid sick leave and job protection for employees quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic. These new benefits provide necessary wage and job protections for employees who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order. Some of the key points from both legislations are discussed below.
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (the “Act”) establishing paid sick leave for COVID-19 and expanding upon existing benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). The Act applies to private employers with less than 500 employees and to certain public employers. Employers with fewer than 50 employees can apply for an exemption if they can show that the leave requirements jeopardize the viability of the business.
Under the Act, employees are entitled to the following benefits:
Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick and family leave if the employee is under an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis/treatment. Wages under this category are paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day or $5,110 over the two-week period.
Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick and family leave if the employee is unable to work (or telework) because of a need to take care of someone who is under an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine, or to care for a minor whose school or child-care provider is closed due to COVID-19. Wages under this category are paid at 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day or $2,000 over the two-week period.
Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid sick and family leave if the employee is unable to work (or telework) because of a need to take care of a minor whose school or child-care provider is closed due to COVID-19. Only employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days are eligible for the additional 10 weeks of paid sick and family leave. Wages under this category are paid at 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day or $12,000 over the twelve-week period.
In addition to the employee benefits noted above, the Act also provides some relief to employers in the form of tax credits for leave benefits paid to their employees. Under the Act and related guidelines from the IRS, employers will be allowed to retain a portion of payroll taxes equal to the amount of eligible sick and family leave paid to employees. If the amount of paid sick and family leave exceeds the amount of payroll taxes, employers will be able to file a request or accelerated payment with the IRS.
New York State Legislation
As of March 18, 2020, all private sector businesses within New York State must provide the following benefits for employees who are quarantined for COVID-19:
10 or fewer employees with annual income less than $1 million: Employers are not mandated to provide the quarantine paid sick leave. Employers in this category must, however, provide employees with unpaid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order. In lieu of unpaid sick leave, employees may utilize Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) or Disability Benefits (“DB”)
11-99 employees (OR) 10 or fewer employees with annual income greater than $1 million: Employers are mandated to provide at least 5 days of paid quarantine sick leave, at the employee’s normal wage rate. Employers must also guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order.
100 or more employees: Employers are mandated to provide at least 14 days of paid quarantine sick leave, at the employee’s normal wage rate. Employers must also guarantee job protection of the duration of the quarantine order.
In addition to the protections provided to private-sector employees, all public sector employers must provide at least 14 days of paid quarantine sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the employee’s quarantine order.
The statutory quarantine sick leave must be provided separately from any sick leave or paid time off accrued under the employer’s benefits package. Employers may not require their employees to use accrued personal sick time before using the statutory quarantine sick leave. If an employee’s quarantine order extends beyond the number of sick days provided, employees may then apply for existing PFL or DB benefits. Although employees are not required to apply for the statutory quarantine sick leave, employers may require proof of the quarantine order to ensure that the employee is utilizing the correct benefits.
It should be noted that these benefits apply only for employees who are under an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine issued by the State of New York, New York State Department of Health, local Board of Health, or any other government agency authorized to issue such an order. Employees who are able to work from home, regardless if they are home on mandatory/precautionary quarantine or as the result of the State’s PAUSE Act, do not qualify for these benefits. Employees whose employer has temporarily closed or gone out of business will need to utilize Unemployment Insurance Benefits.
Lastly, the New York State paid leave is a supplement to, not a replacement of, the federal paid leave. Employees should first utilize federal benefits, if available, and use New York State benefits where federal benefits are unavailable or less than what would be provided under New York State Law.
Our firm has extensive experience counseling employers and businesses on wage and other employment matters. If you have any questions related to this legal briefing or questions related to calculating paid sick/family leave, please contact any member of our Firm at 585-730-4773.
This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2020 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC
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