Coronavirus and Your Rights in the Workplace

The coronavirus outbreak is having a dramatic effect on work throughout the country, and in particular, here in New York. Kessler Matura wants to make sure you are aware of your employment rights. We have prepared a fact sheet explaining how federal, state, and local laws can protect your job, your wages, and your livelihood.

The Families First Coronavirus Protection Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which is made up of a few different parts, will take effect on April 2, 2020. It permits employees who work for employers with fewer than 500 employees (including public agencies) to take up to 80 hours of paid leave in connection with a coronavirus-related illness, so long as the employee has been employed for at least 30 calendar days. Healthcare providers and emergency responders are not eligible.

This is different than the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which allows a qualified employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period if they or an immediate family member requires care for a “serious health condition.” Qualified employees are those who have worked for at least one year, over 1,250 hours in the prior year, and whose employer has at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius. Local and state laws may provide even greater protections for employees.

The FFCRA contains many different sections addressing the Coronavirus crisis, contains several important paid leave provisions, relating to Coronavirus, which are outlined below.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

  • The emergency paid sick time requirements apply only to sick time needs related to Coronavirus.
  • Applies to public agencies regardless of size and private workplaces that have fewer than 500 employees.
  • The bill includes possible exemptions for small businesses and certain healthcare providers and emergency responders.
  • Workers will be entitled to 80 hours of emergency paid sick time. Full-time employees would be entitled to 10 (8-hour work days) and part-time employees will be entitled to the number of hours they work, on average, over a 2-week period.
  • Workers will be able to take time off if the worker is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave because of any of the following:
  1. The worker is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to coronavirus.
  2. The worker has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to coronavirus.
  3. The workers is experiencing coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. The worker is caring for an individual who is subjected to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to the coronavirus.
  5. The worker is caring for a child (under the age of 18) if a school or place of care has been closed due to Coronavirus, or the child care provider is unavailable.
  • Emergency paid sick leave is available for immediate use by the employee, regardless of how long the individual has been employed by the employer.
  • Workers using emergency paid sick leave must be paid the greater of: their regular rate of pay; the federal minimum wage; a state minimum wage where they are employed or a local minimum wage where they are employed.
  • An employee is able to use emergency paid sick time prior to any existing paid leave, and an employer is prohibited from requiring an employee to use other paid leave first.
  • Emergency paid sick leave will not carry over from one year to the next.
  • All covered workers are protected when they take sick time.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

Purpose for Leave: To care for a child under 18 years of age if the school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency related to coronavirus.

Eligibility: Employed by an employer with less than 500 employees and have been employed with their employer for at least 30 calendar days.

Unpaid and Paid leave requirements:

  • The first 10 days of public health emergency leave may be unpaid; during these 10 days, an employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation, personal, medical or sick leave, including emergency leave.
  • An employer must provide paid leave for each day of public health emergency leave after the first 10 days.
  • Leave must be paid at an amount not less than 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay and based on the number of hours the employee would otherwise normally be scheduled to work. However, paid leave under this provision may not exceed $200 per day and $10,000 is the aggregate.

Job protection/restoration: Employees who take public health emergency leave under the FMLA expansion are entitled upon return from leave to be restored to their job position or to an equivalent position with equivalent employment benefits, pay and other terms/conditions of employment.

Paid Sick Leave for New York Residents

On March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed emergency legislation guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of the coronavirus.

To address the immediate need of employees who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation, the new law provides the following:

Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1,000,000 must provide their workers:

  • Job protection for the duration of the quarantine order; and
  • Guaranteed access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.

Employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1,000,000 will provide their workers:

  • At least 5 days of paid sick leave;
  • Job protection for the duration of the quarantine order;
  • Guaranteed access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.

Employers with 100 or more employees, as well as all public employers (regardless of number of employees), will provide their workers:

  • At least 14 days of paid sick leave; and
  • Guaranteed job protection for the duration of the quarantine order.

The provisions of the quarantine legislation took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature, ensuring that New York workers are able to take advantage of these benefits now.

Additional Notes:

  • If you are quarantined but are working from home you do not qualify for these benefits.
  • You may be eligible for additional leave under the NYS Paid Family Leave and disability benefits.
  • If an employer is closed due to the COVID-19 or a quarantine order, employees may immediately apply for Unemployment Insurance.

Please call Kessler Matura at 1-888-831-8615 for more information.

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