Emergency Federal and State Legislation Related to COVID-19 Has Immediate Impact on Workplace

Emergency legislation has been enacted at both the federal and state levels to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace.  While more legislation is likely to follow, at least at the federal level, here’s what you need to know right now.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the FFCRA approved by the House two days earlier.  The FFCRA does several things, but here we focus on the two that directly impact employers:

1. Expansion of protections under the FMLA – for employers with fewer than 500 employees

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act is amended to provide up to 12 weeks of job protected leave to be used to care for a child under 18 if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to the coronavirus.
  • Emergency family and medical leave is unpaid for the first 10 days, but employees can take accrued PTO or, if eligible, emergency paid sick leave (described below).
  • The leave is then paid at up to 2/3 of employee’s regular pay and capped at $200/day or $10,000 in the aggregate.
  • Employers may opt out of the paid leave for employees who are health care providers or emergency responders.
  • Employees are eligible if they have been employed for 30 calendar days.
  • The expanded protections expire December 31, 2020.

2. Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act – for employers with fewer than 500 employees

  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave for two weeks for an employee who is unable to work or telework and:
    • Is complying with a recommendation from a health care provider to self-isolate
    • Is complying with a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order
    • Is seeking a diagnosis or care for coronavirus symptoms
    • Is caring for an individual who is subject to a health care provider recommendation to isolate or a government quarantine or isolation order
    • Is caring for a child whose school or place of care has been closed or child care provider is unavailable, due to coronavirus    
  • Emergency two-week paid sick leave is at 100% of the employee’s regular pay, but capped at:
    • $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, when for self-care
    • $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate when for care of others
  • The leave is paid by the employer but is reimbursed by the government through a tax credit.
  • An employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave provided by the employer before the employee uses the paid sick time. 
  • The leave is available to all employees regardless of length of service (except for health care providers and emergency responders).
  • This leave also expires December 31, 2020.

Maine Unemployment Available for Temporary Leave Caused by COVID-19

  • Individuals are eligible for unemployment, if they remain available to work for, and maintain contact with the relevant employer, and they are:
    • Under a temporary quarantine or isolation restriction and not affected by the virus; or
    • Temporarily laid off due to a partial or full closure of their place of employment as a result of the state of emergency and expected to return.
  • Employees who are needed to a dependent family member as a result of COVID-19 are not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits as long as the individual continues to remain able and available to work for, and maintains contact with, the relevant employer.
  • Unemployment benefits related to the outbreak of COVID-19 are not charged against an employer’s experience rating. 
  • The employee’s one-week waiting period for benefits is waived.
  • Under the Maine Loan Guarantee Program, employees experiencing a reduction in income are eligible for guaranteed loans if the reduction is likely due to circumstances related to COVID-19.
  • Loans are capped at the lesser of $5,000 or the employee’s most recent monthly after-tax pay.
  • No payments on the loan are due for a 90 day grace period after disbursement.
  • No interest will be charged if the loan is repaid within 180 days after the grace period expires.

If you have any questions please reach out to a member of the Pierce Atwood Employment Group, Jim ErwinSuzanne KingMargaret LePage, or Katharine Rand.

Recent Updates and Directory of COVID-19 Attorneys & Resources

With so much information, so many decisions and so little time to address issues raised by the coronavirus pandemic, you need help at your fingertips. Click here for our most recent updates and a directory of Pierce Atwood COVID-19 attorneys who are knowledgeable on the various questions and challenges you may be confronting.

We will continue to add information about specific topics so please check back frequently!

Please contact your principal attorney at Pierce Atwood or one of the attorneys in the directory for immediate assistance.