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House Amendments to Families First Coronavirus Act - Mixed Bag for Employee Leave Benefits

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R. Douglas Taylor, Jr.
March 18, 2020

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “Act”) with bi-partisan support in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, March 14, 2020. The Act provided for expanded FMLA benefits (the “FMLA Expansion Act”), for reasons related to government quarantine orders, employee exposure to the coronavirus, and care of family members who are affected by the coronavirus or resulting school or daycare closures. The Act also provided both full- and part-time employees impacted by coronavirus with paid sick leave (the “Paid Sick Leave Act”).

A mere forty-eight hours later, however, the House was back at it, revisiting the Act and passing a number of corrective amendments to the Act, some of which are less supportive of workers affected by fallout from the ongoing public health crisis than the original bill. Amendments to the FMLA Expansion Act and Paid Sick Leave Act are highlighted below. Keep in mind that the Act would still need to be passed by the Senate, which may take it under consideration as early as today, March 18, 2020, before becoming law.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (“FMLA Expansion Act”)

The House reduced the number of leave days that must be exhausted before paid FMLA leave becomes applicable.

The House caps the rate of paid FMLA leave required of employers under the Act.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (“Paid Sick Leave Act”)

The events and circumstances that trigger employer paid sick leave under the Paid Sick Leave Act remain unchanged under the amendments.

The number of hours of paid sick leave available to an employee under the Paid Sick Leave Act also remains the same.

The rate and total amount of pay for paid sick leave are capped by the House amendments.

What effect does the Paid Sick Leave Act have on Employers with Existing Paid Leave Policies?

How quickly does paid leave under the Paid Sick Leave Act become available for use by eligible employees?

Does the Paid Sick Leave Act penalize employers who violate the above requirements?

The U.S. Senate is expected to take up its discussions of the Act as early as Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Indications seem to be that the Act is viewed by both political parties as not nearly generous enough to employees, considering the growing exigencies attendant to the coronavirus pandemic. We will continue to provide you with updates on the Act as the Senate deliberations get underway.