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After the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, President Donald Trump and health advocates issued strong recommendations for people in high-risk places to self-isolate. In response to that, many cities have started to limit or shut down places where people can gather and have limited public gatherings to small numbers. Those who cannot work from home are wondering how they will survive financially. It is important for all Americans to understand the potential new legislation. For those who may qualify for the provisions, they are designed to help protect them and their families. Our personal injury lawyers are here to help explain the bill’s proposed changes.
This bill is also called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It is intended to extend the time of paid sick leave policies to allow for longer leave periods and improved benefits. Currently, many employers offer paid sick leave policies of about a week for workers who do not have a long employment history. The bill would also extend the number of paid leave days for qualifying medical reasons that are related to COVID-19.
Because there is conflicting information about the bill circulating, there has been some confusion about it. The bill mostly applies to private companies or individuals with fewer than 500 employees. Public agencies with one or more employees would also be required to provide emergency sick leave with pay. The bill would expand the reasons for qualified leave. According to the bill, most employees would qualify for more than two weeks of paid leave. However, the pay would be at a lower rate after the first two weeks. The bill would amend the current federal rule for sick time allowance, which would apply to part-time workers as well.
If the FMLA is expanded as the bill provides, affected employers will need to offer employees who have been on the payroll for 30 days or more expanded family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks. If qualified employees have other paid benefits that they can use, they may opt to do so for the first two weeks, which may be unpaid. Once employees exceed that time, the remaining time that they take away from work must be compensated at two-thirds of the regular pay rate. This expanded benefit applies if a worker must take time away from work due to the coronavirus. There are also several provisions outlined in relation to that. Although it would apply to workers who test positive for the coronavirus, the following instances would apply as well:
If someone displays signs of the coronavirus, was exposed to it or presents other health risks, the employee may qualify for the provisions in the expanded FMLA. If the presence of sick employees jeopardizes the health of other workers, they may also qualify for leave under the above reasons. When it comes to caring for a family member, if the health of that person is determined to create a risk to others in the community, the employee may stay at home to care for the family member.
Many employers also wonder what they can expect if the paid sick leave provisions are expanded. The new provisions would allow for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave. The following are the qualifying reasons for using that provision:
Family members who are in high-risk groups may also be told to stay home by physicians to limit exposure risks. In such a case, an employee may be able to stay home to care for the individual. For example, imagine that a woman has an elderly mother with cancer and COPD. The woman works for a private company with 150 employees. The elderly mother’s doctor orders her to self-isolate to avoid exposure after she develops a cough. If the woman is the only person available to care for her mother, she may qualify to stay home under the proposed provisions.
With strong support from both Republicans and Democrats, the House passed the bill on March 14. However, the provisions are still only proposed changes and have not been made laws yet. If the bill is approved in its current form by the Senate, the changes will take place 15 days after it is finalized. The Senate plans to take up the bill swiftly to provide Americans with much-needed financial relief and peace of mind. As of March 17, the Senate has not yet decided. While it is expected to pass the bill, there still could be changes made to some of the provisions. At West Coast Trial Lawyers, we are working to stay informed of any changes. Since the bill will likely pass, we are here to help if you believe that your rights are being violated at work and you need to speak to our personal injury lawyers. West Coast Trial lawyers encourage you and your family members to take precautions and follow public health orders to stay safe during this difficult time.