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March 18th the Federal Government passed a new law to cover sick leave due to the coronavirus.  If your employer has less than 500 workers the law probably applies to you.

What new paid sick leave is available?

You may qualify for two weeks of paid sick leave if you miss work because of the corona virus:

  • If you are sick with the virus;
  • If you stay home while waiting for virus test results and have symptoms; and
  • If you stay home from work because you have been told or ordered to self-isolate or quarantine you also qualify.

You may qualify for two weeks of paid sick leave:

  • If you are home caring for someone who has been quarantined, isolated, or sick; and
  • If you are home caring for a child whose school or daycare has been closed because of the virus.

What’s the difference if I’m the one that’s sick versus a family member that’s sick or home?

If you are the one that is quarantined, sick, or is seeking a virus diagnosis then you qualify for greater benefits. In that case you get 100% of your daily wage up to $511 per day during the 2 week period. If you are caring for someone else, you only get two thirds your daily wage up to $200 per day.

What if I’m home watching my kids because the schools are closed?

The Family Medical Leave Act has been expanded to cover you if your child’s school has closed due to the virus.  If you’re home and unable to work (or telecommute) because of school closures, the expanded FMLA might cover you.

Under the expanded FMLA you can get up to 12 weeks of leave.  Normally that leave would be unpaid.  However, if you have to take it for the very specific reason of caring for your child that leave is now paid.

The amount you receive should be two thirds your normal daily wage up to $200 per day.  In essence, the way it works is that the first two weeks would be using the new two week paid sick leave, then you would be paid under the FMLA law for up to the next 10 weeks.

Who doesn’t the new paid sick leave law apply to?

If you work for a large employer then the law does not apply to you.  To be a large employer, your company must have 500 or more employees. If your employer has 50 or fewer workers, they can ask to be exempt from the law.  First responders and health workers might also not be covered by the law if their employer opts out.

What should I do if I need to use this leave?

If you think you need to use the expanded FMLA leave or the two week paid sick leave, the first thing to do is to contact your human resources department and let them know you want to use it. Because the law is new, your employer may still be learning their duties under the law. Both of the laws are to be in effect no later than April 6 – but might apply now.

What if my employer won’t give me paid leave?

If your employer won’t give you paid sick leave for the corona virus:

  1. If they deny you leave because of a temporary shutdown or layoff, apply for unemployment;
  2. You may have a claim against the employer under the FMLA and/or the Fair Labor Standards Act; and
  3. Contact the lawyers of Browne House Law for help or advice on getting your paid sick leave.