Given the ongoing spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) across the Commonwealth and beyond, charter school employers are now forced to face a myriad of time-sensitive employment related issues. This pandemic raises a number of considerations including, but not limited to, paid time off and paid sick leave policies, work from home (WFH), potential staff layoffs and reductions in force, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and union collective bargaining matters.
All of these issues should be addressed on a case-by-case basis as this ongoing pandemic continues to develop and as various governmental entities and leaders continue to authorize new executive orders and applicable legislation. We encourage all of our clients to reach out and consult with our office on the rapidly evolving issues and related law.
It is also critical to ensure that our clients are aware of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“the Act”), which was signed into law on March 18, 2020. It is anticipated that there will be additional guidance from the Department of Labor and other government bodies regarding the implementation of this Act in the coming weeks and months. In the interim, it is important for employers to understand how this Act amends the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and to take good-faith steps to adhere to these new requirements.
The Act covers any “eligible employee” who is now defined as an “employee who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer with respect to whom leave is requested under Section 102(a)(1)(F)” of the FMLA. This means that employees who seek FMLA, relating specifically to COVID-19, are eligible under this new definition and will be permitted to take FMLA leave for approved COVID-19 reasons pursuant to the Act. It also covers employers with “fewer than 500 employees” for each workday during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding year (as opposed to the standard FMLA definition relating to 50 or more employees).
This Act also provides for protected leave for a covered employee when the “employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.” A public health emergency means “any emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by the federal, state or local authority.”
The Act provides covered employees with protected unpaid leave for the first 10 workdays of leave under Section 102(a)(1)(F) of the FMLA for reasons relating to COVID-19. After the initial 10 days, the Act states that a covered employer “shall provide paid leave for each day of leave . . . that an employee takes . . .” after the initial 10-day period of COVID-19 leave. After the initial 10-day covered leave period, employers must pay two thirds (66.66%) of the employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work. However, the amount of paid leave permitted under the Act is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 total.
As this new Act imposes brand new leave and pay obligations on covered employers and will apply to many charter schools across the Commonwealth, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm with any questions or to discuss further.
McKENNA SNYDER LLC