Over the past few weeks, our office has received lots of calls from workers in Iowa with questions and concerns about how the COVID-19 outbreak affects their rights as an employee in Iowa. You may be hearing lots of information in the news about new legal protections for workers that Congress passed and the President signed.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
The law went into effect on April 1, 2020 and will remain in effect through the end of this year. The FFCRA basically does two things: it provides for additional paid sick leave and it expands the normal FMLA program. Keep in mind that these protections only apply to individuals who are currently employed. If you have been laid-off or furloughed, then the information I am about to share likely does not apply to your situation.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
First, let’s talk about the paid sick leave protections. In general, if you work for a company with less than 500 employees, you may be entitled to paid sick leave benefits under the new law. You are entitled to these benefits regardless of how long you have worked for your employer.
Under the new law, you are entitled to two-weeks of emergency paid sick leave if you are unable to work or telework for specific reasons related to COVID-19:
- You, or someone you are caring for, is quarantined under a Federal, State, or local government order or health care provider has advised self-quarantine.
- You, or someone you are caring for, is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or seeking a medical diagnosis regarding COVID-19.
- You are caring for a minor son or daughter whose school or daycare provider is unavailable because of COVID-19.
Again, if you cannot report to work or even telework for one of these reasons, then you are entitled to two weeks of paid leave.
If you are absent due to your own illness, you should be paid at your full regular rate. If you are absent due to another person’s illness or a COVID-19 daycare closure, you will receive two-thirds of your regular rate. For both, the law does set a maximum amount of paid sick leave that may cap your benefits.
Paid Extended Family and Medical Leave
The second benefit the new law provides is paid expanded family and medical leave. This part of the law relates to the Family and Medical Leave Act or the FMLA. The normal FMLA protections continue to exist. In addition to those normal FMLA rights, the new law provides some additional protections for leave related to COVID-19.
Again, the expanded FMLA protections apply only to employers with less than 500 employees.
Unlike the COVID-19 related paid sick leave, an employee can only take advantage of the expanded COVID-19 FMLA protections if they have worked for their employer for at least 30 days.
If those conditions are met, then the new law allows for an employee to take up to 12 weeks of FMLA if he or she is unable to work or telework in order to care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 if the child’s school or place of care has closed or the child care provider is unavailable because of COVID-19.
The first 10 days of leave are unpaid. After that – unlike FMLA taken for other reasons – if you take FMLA for this COVID-19 reason, then you are entitled to be paid two-thirds of your regular rate of pay.
If you take leave authorized by the new law and are able to return to work before your leave expires, then your employer must reinstate you to your former position or an equivalent position. The new law also prohibits covered employers from discharging, disciplining, or discriminating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
Again, if you are taking FMLA for any other reason besides COVID-19 childcare issues, the normal FMLA rules still apply.
Those of us at RSH Legal hope the information shared today is helpful to you and your families. We also wish you and your family all the best as we struggle through the difficult days that lie ahead for our country and the world.
If you have any questions, please call RSH Legal today at 1-319-774-1783.