In response to the deepening coronavirus crisis, Congress passed the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), effective April 1, 2020. The emergency paid sick leave portion of that legislation potentially applies to all employees who cannot work either due to Oregon’s shelter-in-place order or because of school closures.
The FFCRA creates several new paid sick leave requirements for most small businesses or non-federal public employers. First, covered employers must offer 80 hours of paid sick leave if an employee cannot come to work for various coronavirus-related reasons including:
- The employee is subject to a “Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order”;
- The employee has coronavirus or is experiencing symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis;
- The employee is caring for someone with COVID-19; or
- The employee is caring for a child whose school “has been closed . . . due to COVID-19 precautions.”
These first 80 hours of sick time must be paid at varying rates depending on the reason the employee cannot come to work. Employers may receive tax credit reimbursement for these first 80 hours of paid sick leave.
A second provision of the law extends paid sick leave for another ten weeks, amending the Family Medical Leave Act to apply to all employers for similar purposes including coronavirus-related school closures.
Other observations about this legislation:
- Employers can require employees to telecommute instead of taking sick leave – the statute only requires the employer to offer sick leave if the employee is “unable to work (or telework).”
- Employers are not required to give employees paid leave just because an employee feels unsafe or lives with vulnerable adults. Employees may report concerns about an unsafe workplace to Oregon OSHA, but they are not allowed to simply refuse to work.
- In terms of sequencing personal or sick leave, employers cannot allow employees who qualify for the initial 80 hours of paid sick time to use other available leave time first.
- Employers must provide notice to employees of their rights under this statute. The Department of Labor has prepared a model poster for that purpose: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf