Paid Sick Leave and the Coronavirus: Here’s What You Need to Know - Shegerian Law

In 2020, a new virus was discovered and quickly spread throughout the entire world in a matter of weeks. Governments took action as soon as possible to try and overcome the situation. Unfortunately, more than a year later, the ongoing global pandemic continues to affect the lives of millions of people around the world.

In just a few months, COVID-19 cases saw a spike, where the United States remains to have highest out of all the other countries. In just a single day, over 300,000 new cases were reported—the highest total as of yet.

Now, a fourth wave is brewing due to a new variant spreading across the country, challenging health protocols and vaccination rollouts once again. This makes it more crucial to remain safe and healthy during these difficult times.

Today, many people are fortunate to have kept their current jobs and switched over to a work-from-home setup. However, millions have also been sidelined as the virus continues to spread.

As a result, you may find yourself needing to notify your supervisor to take a day or two off from work if you experience the symptoms. However, this raises the question: are you even eligible for paid sick leaves in the middle of a global pandemic?

If you find yourself in such a situation, it pays to know what the law says. This guide to the regulation covering paid sick leave for the coronavirus pandemic will answer some of the most commonly asked questions regarding this issue.


The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The FFCRA is an implemented regulation set up by the U.S. Department of Labor that took effect on April 1, 2020, up to December 31, 2020.

This legislation helped ensure that employers comply with the stated rights of an employee to receive paid sick leaves and expanded family medical leaves within the coverage date. As such, employees were eligible to receive their regular rate while on sick leave due to health issues from COVID-19.

It’s important to understand that this response act only required certain employers to provide their workers with an allocated amount of paid sick leaves. These credits may also be marked as an expanded family and medical leave for situations specific or related to COVID-19 during the effectivity period.

With that said, you may find that the requirements for your eligibility for this action may vary depending on other factors and your current situation.


Frequently Asked Questions About Paid Sick Leave of People with COVID-19

The details in the Department of Labor’s FFCRA can be confusing, leading to the confusion of many employees and employers. These are a few of the commonly asked questions regarding this act and their corresponding answers.

  • How can an employer provide an employee paid sick leave or cover lost wages due to COVID-19?

If your employer has fewer than 500 employees in total during the time that an employee is to take a paid leave, you are entitled to receive paid sick leaves or expanded family and medical leaves.

The FFCRA protects both fully employed, temporary, and part-time workers in the United States, including the district of Columbia, and other U.S. territories.

The FFCRA’s provisions for paid leaves were initially put in effect last April 1, 2020, where applied leaves can be taken between that date until December 31, 2020. However, with a few key amendments made by President Joe Biden, the provisions may be voluntarily extended by the employer until September 30, 2021.

  • If I was eligible for paid sick leave under FFCRA in 2020 but did not use any, am I still entitled to take paid sick or expanded family and medical leave after December 31, 2020?

Employers are not required to cash out paid sick leave provisions if unused by the end of the validity period. All unused leave credits were considered forfeited or invalid on January 1, 2021. 

However, upon the extension and amendment of the FFCRA under the authority of President Biden, these credits can remain valid until the end of the stated extended period, September 20, 2021.

  • How much will I be paid while taking my sick leave, expanded family, or medical leave under the FFCRA?

The compensation you receive when taking a paid leave under the FFCRA will vary depending on several factors. These include your regular working schedule, the reason for your leave, your regular rate, and the local minimum wage of the state you are currently working in.

If you’re required to undergo a federal, state, or local quarantine period due to COVID-19, you may receive up to $511 per day over the coverage of the paid sick leave period. 

  • As an employer, should overtime hours be included in calculating the pay of my employees?

Yes. The FFCRA requires employers to rightfully compensate you for the total hours you have worked within and beyond your regular schedule. 

However, the act also states that paid sick leaves may not go over 80 hours in total over a two-week period. In some cases, this condition may also vary if an employee has a continuously shifting work schedule or is employed part-time. 

  • What is my standard pay rate under the regulations of the FFCRA?

Under the FFCRA, your pay rate is calculated by taking the average of your regular rate up to six months before the date of your paid sick leave. However, if you have not been working for an employer for more than six months, the rate would be based on the average you get each week you have worked for them.

In another scenario, if you’re paid with commissions, piece rates, or tips, these can also be included when calculating your average. This calculation method is also validated under the Fair Labor Standards Act, covering independent contractors.

  • What do I do if my employer denied me paid sick leave under the FFCRA?

Under the conditions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employers are required to provide paid sick leave credits that become effective as of April 1, 2020. With that said, you’re still entitled to your other paid sick leave and emergency leave credits that you received prior to the effective date of the act.

If an employer fails to provide this mandated benefit, they may face federal penalties for violating employee rights. You may also file a complaint and seek the aid of an unpaid wages lawyer to process your claim and receive the compensation benefits that you are entitled to.

  • As an employer, what are the records I need to keep track of when an employee takes a paid sick leave or an expanded family medical leave under the FFCRA?

All employers are required to keep a record of all claimed and unclaimed credits for paid sick leave or expanded family medical leave. Several documents must be provided, whether the request made by the employee was approved or denied.

These records include the name of the employee requesting for leave, the covered period, their reason for leaving, and a verified statement from the employee which proves their inability to work based on their reason.

If an employee must take leave to take care of a family member or individual due to COVID-19, additional information must be prepared. These include the name of the person to care for, workplace or school, and a statement saying that the employee is the only other person suitable to care for the sick.

  • What is the definition of being unable to work due to reasons related to COVID-19?

Under the FFCRA, you’re considered unable to work if your employer has a task assigned to you that you’re unable to fulfill due to one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons. This can be applied to circumstances that prevent you from working either at your regular workplace or through telework.

However, you may also arrange different working hours outside of your regular schedule if you prefer, eliminating the need to go on leave.


Practicing Your Rights During a Global Pandemic

As an employee, you have the legal right to use your leave credits provided by your employer at any given time for several specified reasons.

The Department of Labor also states that during these difficult times, businesses that fall under the eligibility of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act cannot refuse you paid sick leaves. Failure to do so may result in companies and business owners facing federal consequences later on.

If you need further assistance, contact Shegerian & Associates today to get a top-notch unpaid wages lawyer on your side as soon as possible. You may also reach out if you need assistance with other legal concerns in the workplace.