On July 24, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor published additional guidance for workers and employers on how the protections and requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affect the workplace as workplaces reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) includes commonly asked questions and answers that address critical issues in all three laws.

Below are the updated Q&A’s addressed in this new guidance:

94. My employee used two weeks of paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for his parent who was advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine because of symptoms of COVID-19. I am concerned about his returning to work too soon and potentially exposing my other staff to COVID-19. May I require him to telework or take leave until he has tested negative for COVID-19? (added 07/20/2020)

It depends. In general, an employee returning from paid sick leave under FFCRA has a right to be restored to the same or an equivalent position, although exceptions apply as described in Question 43. However, due to the public health emergency and your employee’s potential exposure to an individual with COVID-19, you may temporarily reinstate him to an equivalent position requiring less interaction with co-workers or require that he telework. In addition, the employee must comply with job requirements that are unrelated to having been out on paid sick leave. For instance, a company may require any employee who knows he has interacted with a COVID-infected person to telework or take leave until he has personally tested negative for COVID-19 infection, regardless of whether he has taken any kind of leave. Such a policy would apply equally to an employee returning from paid sick leave. However, you may not require the employee to telework or be tested for COVID-19 simply because the employee took leave under the FFCRA.

95.   I was working full time for my employer and used two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave under the FFCRA before I was furloughed. My employer said I could go back to work next week. Can I use paid sick leave under the FFCRA again after I go back to work? (added 07/20/2020)

No. Employees are limited to a total of 80 hours of paid sick leave under the FFCRA. If you had taken fewer than 80 hours of paid sick leave before the furlough, you would be entitled to use the remaining hours after the furlough if you had a qualifying reason to do so.

96.   I have an employee who used four weeks of expanded family and medical leave before she was furloughed. Now I am re-opening my business. When my employee comes back to work, if she still needs to care for her child because her child care provider is unavailable for COVID-related reasons, how much expanded family and medical leave does she have available? (added 07/20/2020)

Under the FFCRA, your employee is entitled to up to 12 weeks of expanded family and medical leave. She used four weeks of that leave before she was furloughed, and the weeks that she was furloughed do not count as time on leave. When she returns from furlough, she will be eligible for eight additional weeks of leave if she has a qualifying reason to take it.

Because the reason your employee needs leave may have changed during the furlough, you should treat a post-furlough request for expanded family and medical leave as a new leave request and have her give you the appropriate documentation related to the reason she currently needs leave. For example, before the furlough, she may have needed leave because her child’s school was closed, but she might need it now because her child’s summer camp is closed due to COVID-19-related reasons.

97.   My business was closed due to my state’s COVID-19 quarantine order. I furloughed all my employees. The quarantine order was lifted and I am returning employees to work. Can I extend my former employee’s furlough because he would need to take FFCRA leave to care for his child if he is called back to work? (added 07/20/2020)

No. Employers may not discriminate or retaliate against employees (or prospective employees) for exercising or attempting to exercise their right to take leave under the FFCRA. If your employee’s need to care for his child qualifies for FFCRA leave, whether paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, he has a right to take that leave until he has used all of it. You may not use his request for leave (or your assumption that he would make such a request) as a negative factor in an employment decision, such as a decision as to which employees to recall from furlough.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues we can expect to see additional guidance published on issues pertaining to the use of the FFCRA benefits through the end of the year as this law remains in effect through December 31, 2020, unless extended. Employers should continually review the FAQ’s which can be found here for guidance on specific scenarios.

As the guidance issued by the state and federal agencies is regularly changing, as is the medical information known about COVID-19, this memo is provided solely as a reference tool to be used for informational purposes and should not be construed or interpreted as providing legal advice related to any specific case or cases.

This Newsletter is intended as a brief summary of employment law. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained herein, it is not intended to serve as “legal advice,” or to establish an attorney-client relationship. If additional information is needed on any of the topics contained herein, please contact our office. All rights reserved. ©2020

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