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Labor Dept. Issues Guidance on Paid Leave Law in Regards to Coronavirus

March 28, 2020

March 25th, 2020 - In order to help workers and employers navigate the leave provisions of the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package, The U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidance that helps many employers pay employees that are unable to work because of coronavirus related issues. 

Fact sheets and Q&A documents are being used for this guidance, and are meant to answer “critical questions” about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This includes learning which businesses are covered and how workers’ pay should be calculated.

“Providing information to the American workforce is a top priority for the Wage and Hour Division,” says DOL Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton.

On March 18th the president signed this act into law, so now all businesses with less than 500 workers must provide emergency short and long term leave. This law takes effect on April 2 and will continue until Dec. 31.

This new law will provide two weeks of time off at full pay to any worker unable to work for various reasons related to COVID-19, whether that reason is because they are in quarantine, or if they have coronavirus symptoms and are seekinging a diagnosis. Both full and part time workers will be provided with as many hours off as they would generally have in two weeks, up to 80 hours.

80 hours at two-thirds pay will also be offered to workers who have a family member affected by the virus and in need of special care, and up to 10 more weeks off at two-thirds pay to anyone unable to work because of a child or dependent whose regular care provider or school has closed.

The Q&A guidance answers several questions workers may have about who the law covers and what assistance it provides. Any business with less than 500 full and part time workers in the U.S., including workers on leave or day laborers, but not independent contractors, will benefit from this law.

The DOL said that, “A corporation will generally be considered a single employer, and all its workers will count toward the threshold, as will linked employers that meet the Family and Medical Leave ACt’s integrated employer test, which examines the degree of integration.”

The law does not completely exclude smaller employers, but it does direct the DOL to issue regulations against businesses with 50 or fewer workers to avoid providing them with pay leave that may jeopardize their business. The guidance directs businesses that may seek an exemption to "document why your business with fewer than 50 employees meets the criteria set forth by the department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations."

Businesses are to calculate workers’ leave and sick pay based on their regular rate of pay. If a worker’s pay fluctuates, the regular rate is their average weekly pay over the past six months. This includes wages, commissions, and tips. Any worker that has worked less than six months will be paid based on their average earnings for the time they have worked. 

The agency is releasing a poster to be posted in workplaces by employers, as well as additional fact sheets and Q&A guidance.

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