New Paid Sick Leave law passes in the House, heads to the U.S. Senate
Paid sick leave might be a reality for millions of employees. On Friday March 14, 2020, the House of Representatives passed a Bill (H.R. 6201). introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) with bipartisan support (363 -40), intended to help employees and individuals through the Coronavirus crisis by, among other provisions, creating a new paid sick leave law, and amending the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
The paid sick leave portion is titled the “Paid Sick Days for Public Health Emergencies and Personal and Family Care Act.” If passed by the Senate, this might be the first time that paid sick leave for employees has been required by Federal law. This article summarizes the sick leave portions of H.R. 6201.
Entitlement to paid sick days leave
Under the Paid Sick Days portion of the Bill, full and part-time employees are entitled to their full salary or wages for 14 consecutive days (10 workdays) during public health emergencies.
Employees would accrue least 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, to be used after the first 60 days of work. But for public health emergencies, the paid sick leave would be earned and available to be used immediately.
There is no "use it or lose it" for sick leave accrued under H.R. 6201. Accrued sick leave can be carried over to the next year, and employees would be able to accumulate up to 56 hours of accrued sick leave, though none is paid out if employee is fired, laid off or quits.
When sick leave may be used
This is the key part of the Bill. It is intended to allow employees to take paid sick leave for certain situations, including when the employer’s business is closed due to Coronavirus or other public health emergency, and when the employee is subject to quarantine based on a recommendation of a Federal or State official or health care provider.
The Bill also prohibits employers from insisting that employees find someone to replace them while they are out sick, as a condition to being allowed to take paid sick leave.
Changes to FMLA
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is also temporarily amended to provide employees with extended leave at two-thirds of their regular salaries. This only applies to employees working for a business with fewer than 500 employees.
The FMLA provisions would apply to employees who have been employed for 30 calendar days. The usual FMLA requirements are that the employee must be employed for a year, worked for 1,250 hours, and works in a location where there are 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. These would not apply for public health emergencies.
Following the first 14 days of absence from work, workers who require further days of leave will be covered under the FMLA for up to 12 weeks.
FMLA can be used when the employee needs leave due to a public emergency (including the Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak), including for purposes of a quarantine by recommendation of a health provider or to care for a child of the employee, if the elementary or secondary school or place of care is closed due to a public health emergency.
Paid Sick Leave applies to CSE meetings and to victims of sexual violence:
The proposed Paid Sick Leave law also allows employees to take paid sick leave to attend Committee on Special Education (CSE) or other school meetings, or meetings at a place where the child is receiving care, regarding the child’s health condition or disability. This section addresses a gray area of FMLA, which was the subject of an August 2019 U.S. Department of Labor Opinion.
This sick leave law also extends paid sick leave to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking, who (a) seek medical attention for themselves, their children, parent or spouse; or (b) consult with a victim services organization; or (c) obtain or assist in obtaining psychological or other counsel; or (d) seek relocation; or (e) take legal action, including preparing for or participating in a legal proceeding about the domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Employers should not take any adverse actions against employees for exercising rights to paid sick leave, or they will be violating the Paid Sick Leave Act.
Tax Credits for Employers
There are provisions for potential tax credits for Employers. We will see what the Senate's response is to this proposal.
What is the next step?
The Bill passed the House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate. It is not enacted into law until it is passed by the Senate and signed by the President. At the time this is written, it was a subject of heated debate in the Senate.
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