Coronavirus and Employment Law: Does it Affect You?

Anyone who has been watching the news recently has likely seen plenty of coverage surrounding the pandemic that is unfolding regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus). Recently, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill titled the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill is expected to sail through the Senate, at which time President Trump is going to sign it into law.

The goal of this bill is to help everyone who has been impacted by the pandemic. For example, this bill is going to guarantee free testing for coronavirus to everyone and should boost unemployment insurance to those who are currently being laid off because small businesses have shuttered. One of the most overlooked aspects of this bill is the support it provides in the form of paid sick leave.

During this pandemic, workers are going to be hit especially hard. Regardless of whether or not someone has actually contracted the virus, they might not be working right now because of business closures. For example, restaurant waiters and bartenders are not receiving any work right now because their places of work have closed. Because these individuals live largely off of tips, their employers might not be paying them anything at all. Even for workers who are salaried, they might not be able to go into work. This means that they could be taking an extended amount of sick leave. What is going to happen when they run out of sick days? This is one of the most important issues related to employment law and this pandemic.

The bill that recently passed is going to provide workers with up to 10 weeks of protected paid leave for those who are missing work directly related to the coronavirus pandemic. This is seen as an amendment to FMLA, which was passed back in 1993. This includes individuals who have to stay home because they are in quarantine as well as parents that have to stay home to take care of a child who is missing school. This amendment casts a wide net to catch as many people as possible.

In addition, there is a second law in this bill titled the Emergency Paid Sick leave Act or EPSLA. This will provide full-time employees with up to 80 hours (or two weeks) of paid sick leave in accordance with the reasons outlined above. Part-time employees are also going to receive paid leave; however, this is going to be commensurate with the number of hours they typically work.

The goal of this bill is to protect people from being laid off or foreclosing on their homes during this challenging time. It is critical for everyone to know their rights under this law. There are provisions that prevent employers from discriminating against employees who exercise their rights under this law.