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Do You Need Leave From Your Job For Reasons Relating To Covid-19?

There are two new laws in place that may provide job protection and income replacement for those employees who are unable to work for pandemic related reasons.

First, effective April 2, 2020, the FMLA is amended to require many employers to provide their employees with some protected leave from work and paid time off under certain circumstances relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. The new law provides substantial job protection and income replacement for many employees who are unable to work because they need to care for children that are at home due to the pandemic.

Under the amended law, you are entitled to 12 weeks of protected leave if 1) your employer has less than 500 employees; 2) you have been on the employer’s payroll for 30 calendar days or more and 3) you are unable to work (or telework) because you need to care for a child whose school is closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to the pandemic.

The first ten days of this protected leave is unpaid though an employee may use accrued sick time. During the remainder of the leave your employer must pay you 2/3 of your pay for the hours that you would normally be scheduled to work with a maximum rate of $200 per day and $10,000 total.

At the conclusion of this leave you are entitled to restoration to your former job. There is an exception to the restoration requirement for employers with less than 25 employees if they can demonstrate that the employee’s job was eliminated due to the impacts of the pandemic and so long as the employer makes reasonable efforts for one year following the end of the leave to contact the employee if an equivalent position opens up.

The Act permits employers who are health care providers and first responders to exclude the application of these rights to their employees.

Second, the federal government has passed the “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” which provides paid sick leave to qualifying employees. The law applies to employees of private employers with fewer than 500 employees and employees of public agencies. Under the law, employees who are unable to work because they have Covid-19, have symptoms of Covid-19, are quarantined/isolated, or are caring for children who are at home due to the pandemic are entitled to paid leave. Full time employees are entitled to pay for 80 hours at full pay unless they are home due to the need to care for children in which case they will receive 2/3 pay. Part time employees are entitled to payment in amount equal to their typically weekly hours for two weeks at regular pay (unless they are on leave due to the need to care for children in which case they will receive 2/3 of their pay for the two week period). The law contains maximums of $511 per day for full time employees and $200 per day for part time employees.

The federal Department of Labor has issued a fact sheet with additional information regarding employee’s rights in the context of the pandemic which can be viewed here.

Also, be aware that laws that are already in place may provide employees with protected leave from their positions. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act already provides for up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for employees whose employers have 50 or more employees if the employee meets the qualifying provisions of the FMLA and requires medical leave due to their own or a family member’s serious health condition. The Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements provide employees who work in a workplace with fifteen or more employees to take ten weeks of unpaid leave for their own serious health condition or a family member’s serious health condition. Also, employees who have a protected disability as defined by the Maine Human Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, or Rehabilitation Act may be entitled to reasonable accommodations, including unpaid leave, if needed for their disability. In addition, all of these laws contain anti-retaliation provisions which make it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for needing and/or requesting the rights set out in these laws. If you believe that your rights are being violated give us a call to discuss further.