Families First Coronavirus Response Act
New York City Lawyers Representing Employees
The coronavirus pandemic has brought some changes to federal law. One of these changes is the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Families First or FFCRA). This law incorporates provisions that affect you if you work for an employer with fewer than 500 employees. These provisions, which include the possibility of paid sick leave for coronavirus, will last from April 1 to December 31, 2020. If you work for an employer with fewer than 500 employees, and you are denied the protection to which you are entitled under Families First, you should consult the New York City employment lawyers at Phillips & Associates.
FAMILIES' First Eligibility for Paid Sick Leave
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act gives employees of private sector employers, that have fewer than 500 employees, the right to two weeks of paid sick leave. The time off under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is paid at your regular rate of pay, but only up to $511 per day.
To take this form of two-week paid leave, you need to be able to show that you are unable to work because you are quarantined under federal, state, or local orders or a doctor’s advice, or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. You are entitled to two weeks of emergency paid leave (80 hours) as a full-time worker. As a part-time employee, you are entitled to the usual number of hours that you work in a two-week period.
The law also allows you to take paid sick leave based on the coronavirus under other circumstances as well. You can receive two-thirds of your regular rate of pay, up to $200 each day, for two weeks, if you are taking quarantine leave due to a bona fide need to care for a person who is in quarantine under a local, state, or federal government order or a doctor’s advice, to care for a child under age 18 whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable, or because you are going through substantially the same situation as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
This law will not preempt any state or private paid leave that you have. You cannot get this type of pay for any day on which you were compensated by your employer, or you received unemployment insurance benefits.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion
You are eligible for expanded Emergency Family and Medical Leave if you have been on the job for a minimum of 30 days. You can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave at the rate of $200 each day if you need the leave to care for a minor child whose school (or childcare provider) is unavailable because of COVID-19. The first 10 days of this type of leave are technically unpaid, but you can use your paid leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, or you can use accrued paid time off or accrued vacation under your company’s policy. An employer can be excluded from this expansion to the FMLA if it has fewer than 50 employees, and the leave requirements would endanger the business’ viability or present a hardship to the business.
Additionally, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provides that if you work for an employer with at least 25 employees, you must be returned to the same or a substantially equivalent position as before you took leave. So your employer is supposed to make a reasonable effort to put you back into a job equal to the job that you had when you took leave. This job should have equivalent benefits and salary.
However, the mandate for reinstatement will not apply if the job that you had when the leave started does not exist any longer because of economic conditions or other changes in operating conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The mandate also will not apply if your employer used reasonable efforts to return you to an equivalent position, or if these reasonable efforts failed, but your employer reasonably tries to contact you if another equivalent position becomes available within a time frame specified by the law.
Discrimination and Hostile Work Environment Harassment
Your employer is not allowed to terminate, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against you for lawfully taking paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. You also should not face discrimination or retaliation for filing a complaint or instituting a proceeding under Families First. If your employer fails to provide the paid leave to which you are entitled, it may be required to pay you both back pay and statutory damages equivalent to the amount of back pay.
For example, if you lawfully take 12 weeks of paid leave from a New York City employer with 100 employees and when you return, your coworkers and supervisors repeatedly make cruel comments about your being infected or being lazy for taking the quarantine leave . . . or your supervisor now gives you assignments that are less favorable, you may have a claim for discrimination and a hostile work environment. Our attorneys can help determine whether we can help you in your specific situation and represent you aggressively.
Consult an Experienced Employment Lawyer
If you believe that you may have an actionable claim of workplace discrimination or harassment under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, you should consult our New York City attorneys. We represent workers who have faced discrimination throughout Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, and in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk Counties. Call us at (866) 229-9441 or contact us via our online form.
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