The House amended its Coronavirus Response Bill late on March 16, 2020 and sent it on to the Senate.
Paid Sick Leave Changes
The sick leave provisions of the bill remained largely intact, and would entitle employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees to take up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for coronavirus-related reasons, including required quarantining, caring for family members with the illness, or for emergency school closings. To review our initial summary of the bill, which includes discussion of portions of the bill that were unaffected by the technical amendments, click here. The amendments include a $511 daily cap for leave benefits for employees with their own personal coronavirus-related medical conditions, and a $200 cap for employees caring for others with such symptoms or for school closings.
Importantly, the sick leave amendments also allow the Secretary of Labor to grant exemptions to employers where the secretary determines that imposition of the paid sick leave requirements would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.” It also allows healthcare and emergency response employers to apply for exemptions from the Secretary of Labor so that the law would not apply to their employees.
FMLA Expansion Changes
The amendments limit the permissible reasons an employee may take extended paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act extension provisions of the Bill. Specifically, the amended bill would only provide additional paid FMLA leave for parents to care for children under 18 who were out of school or unable to receive childcare because of coronavirus-related school closings. The amendments also cap the total benefit allowable under the FMLA expansion provisions of the law at $200 per day, and $10,000 in the aggregate, per employee. The leave would still be unpaid for the first 10 days, and then paid for the following ten weeks. The amendments also carved out healthcare workers and emergency responders from the law, so they would not be entitled to take such leave. Finally, it immunize employers with fewer than 50 employees from employee-initiated civil actions related to noncompliance.
As with the sick leave amendments, the FMLA expansion provisions apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees. The Secretary of Labor can grant exemptions to employers with fewer than 50 employees where the secretary determines that imposition of the paid sick leave requirements would “jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”
In sum, the employment-related changes appear to mean that many employees would still receive up to two weeks of paid leave for coronavirus-related reasons. Any additional paid leave beyond those two weeks would be limited to parents of children affected by school closures. And the bill may reduce the burden on smaller employers by allowing the Secretary of Labor to grant exemptions.