Effective April 1, 2020 and continuing through December 31, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) will require certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and/or expanded Family Medical Leave for reasons related to COVID-19.
There are essentially 2 parts to the Act. Part 1 is an emergency expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Part 2 requires certain employers to provide Federal Paid Sick Leave.
The Act applies to all employers with fewer than 500 employees. This includes both full and part-time employees. This number also includes dual employees, such as those provided by professional employment organizations (PEO’s) also known as staffing agencies. There may be exceptions for “extreme financial hardship,” but the Department of Labor has not yet produced any guidance for what that means.
The Act also provides for a “Distressed Small Business Exception,” which only applies to employers with 50 or less employees. Again, because this law is so new, there is little to no guidance from the Department of Labor as to who will qualify for this exception.
So, what does the FFCRA require employers to do?
Generally, all employers must provide their qualifying employees with:
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined either (1) pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider, and/or (2) is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
FAQ’s about the FFCRA:
How does an employee qualify for these FFCRA benefits?
Some examples include:
- Being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus.
- Having symptoms of the virus.
- Being required to be in self-quarantine.
- Being ordered by your doctor to self-quarantine.
- Having to care for a spouse or child who is infected with the virus.
- Another common example will be caring for a child whose school or daycare has been closed because of COVID-19 – Or having substantially similar condition based on guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Can both parents claim paid leave under the FFCRA?
There is nothing in the law that suggests that both parents would not be entitled to paid leave if they otherwise qualify for the benefits.
Can my employer require me to use paid sick leave before paying benefits under the FFCRA?
It depends. The expanded benefits to FMLA do not kick in for the first 10 days, therefore you may be required to use unpaid sick leave to cover that gap. The mandatory sick leave would not require you to use accrued unpaid leave.
How much pay am I entitled to receive?
It depends on whether you are seeking the expanded benefits of the FMLA, or the mandatory paid sick leave. Normally, a qualifying employee is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA. The new law expands that to include paid leave of two-thirds of base pay based on number of hours normally worked. The maximum is $200 per day, or $10,000 per employee, based on 12 weeks of eligibility.
The mandatory paid sick leave under the FFCRA is capped at $511 per day, with a total benefit of $5,110 per employee.
How are employers expected to pay for these FFCRA benefits?
The government has rolled out several plans to help small business employers pay for these new benefits. One option is a dollar for dollar tax credit for payments made. A second option is a small business loan through the Small Business Administration (SBA) to cover payroll costs. If certain conditions are met, and all of your employees remain on the payroll for a specified period, these loans will be forgiven (they don’t have to be paid back). Lastly, some employers may have business interruption insurance that could be applicable. Definitely check your policy to determine coverage.
Can my employer disclose my diagnosis of COVID-19?
Yes, under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to HIPPAA’s confidentiality requirements. For example, an employer can disclose such a diagnosis for the safety of your co-workers.
What if I contracted COVID-19 at work, will workers’ compensation cover my treatment?
There is much we don’t know about how the new laws will be interpreted, and whether a diagnosis of COVID-19 could be considered an occupational disease. Certainly, for those on the front lines fighting this disease, for instance health care workers, an argument could be made that it is a risk of the job.
If I have to provide these FFCRA benefits, my business will be forced to shut down. Are there any exceptions?
Yes. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
If I have to take leave, can I get my job back when I return?
Yes. The new law requires employers with 25 or more employees to reinstatement after 12 weeks. If your employer has less than 25 employees they must “make reasonable effort” to reinstate an employee who has taken leave under the Act.
In these uncertain times, it is always best to know your rights. If you have questions about Coronavirus/COVID-19, and your entitlement to benefits under the new laws, please contact us for a free legal consultation. We are not currently taking in-person interviews in our efforts to avoid unnecessary spread of the virus, but we are always available for telephonic consultations.
Generally speaking, an employer must pay its employees for the work that they perform. This is true whether you are paid hourly, salary, commissions, or by the piece, or any other method for determining the amount. In Indiana, these wages must be paid either twice a month (semi-monthly) or every two weeks (bi-weekly). Failure to pay wages earned can result in penalties for the employer up to two times the amount of unpaid wages, plus attorney’s fees.
In Indiana, if you are an hourly employee with an agreed upon wage, your employer is obligated to pay you for the hours you work within ten (10) days of the payment period end. For overtime, an Indiana employee is entitled to 1.5 times his or her hourly rate for any of the hours worked past a 40 hour work-week. If an employer does not make these payments, an individual may have what is known as a wage and hour claim.
Indiana has two statutes, the Wage Claims Statute, Indiana Code §22-2-9, and the Wage Payment Statute, Indiana Code §22-2-5. The Wage Claims Statute is for employees that have either been terminated or are in a labor organization dispute. Individuals with a claim under the Wage Claims Statute, that is in excess of $6,000 must get approval from the Indiana Department of Labor to file a private suit against their employer. For claims between $30 and $6,000, the Indiana Department of Labor will collect your wages free of charge. If you have a claim for unpaid wages that is less than $6,000 a claim can be made by filling out the IDOL’s Online Wage Claim Form: https://www.in.gov/dol/2671.htm
The Wage Payment Statute is for employees who have voluntarily left employment or are still currently employed.
Under both Indiana statutes, an employee is entitled to liquidated damages ranging from 10% to no more than double the amount of wages due and reasonable attorney’s fees. These damages are in addition to the wages owed. These statutes are designed to pay individuals what they are due. Immigration status does not matter, and it is illegal for an employer to use immigration status as a justification for not paying wages.
The Indiana Supreme Court reiterated the importance of Indiana’s Wage and Hour laws and their importance for all workers who depend on their paychecks to be paid regularly.
“I write separately to observe that the facts of this case dramatize the point that the statute confers on all employees the right to recover treble damages and attorney’s fees for failure to pay wages, regardless of the employees’ circumstances. This is perfectly understandable as applied to the vast majority of workers who are dependent on their paychecks for their day-to-day expenses. These employees need the money currently, not at the end of protracted litigation, and often do not have the economic staying power to engage in a court battle over relatively small amounts. A statute providing one party with treble damages and attorney’s fees is a very substantial deterrent to an employer’s playing fast and loose with wage obligations. As applied to claims of most workers this is very understandable legislative policy.”
St. Vincent Hosp. & Health Care Ctr., Inc. v. Steele, 766 N.E.2d 699, 706 (Ind. 2002).
If you have worked, but not been paid, please contact the employment attorneys at Goodin Abernathy, LLP to determine if you have a wage and hour claim. Your time and effort is valuable – talk to us to determine your options for recovering your hard earned wages.
Are you facing an embarrassing issue at work? Is there a problem that might hurt your reputation and even your professional license? Fortunately, we may be able to help.
Even if what happened wasn’t necessarily criminal, it can still damage or destroy your professional reputation. You may face discipline from a professional licensing body, or you may face difficulty securing new employment. The good news is that our professional employment lawyers here in Indianapolis help deserving clients minimize damage and keep their careers in tact.
What Kinds of Offenses Can Tarnish Your Professional Reputation?
There may be a number of different ways that you might get in trouble at work. You may have been caught sexting or watching pornography on the job. There may be issues with sending inappropriate emails on company servers. Even what you do in your personal life might create professional problems.
Perhaps you’ve been accused of stealing from the company. Maybe you’ve been accused of inappropriate behavior with a client. Maybe something as simple as failing to report a criminal conviction to a supervisor can land you in hot water.
If you’ve made a mistake at work, the employer might claim that the error reflects on your professional ability. You might fail to meet targets in a way that results in your dismissal. Insubordination or failing to follow regulations are other problems that might cause an issue with your professional license and reputation in the community.
We Can Help You Minimize the Damage to Your Reputation
We work with deserving clients in order to help them defend their character and minimize damage as much as possible. No matter where you’re at in the process, we can work with you in order to help you defend yourself and preserve your career. This is critical at all stages when you face an embarrassing work issue.
Negotiating with Your Employer
Even before the professional licensing agency becomes involved, we can help you minimize the situation and mitigate the circumstances. It may be as simple as working together in order to present evidence to the employer that shows your side of the story. There may be ways that we can ask the employer for documents or records that can help the employer to make sense of the situation.
From there, we work with the employer to negotiate a resolution that may protect you. Perhaps rather than terminating your employment, you can agree to complete education courses. If they absolutely insist on termination, we can help you negotiate favorable terms.
For example, you may work with the employer in order to accept your resignation rather than report you as fired for cause. This can be invaluable to securing your next employment. We might be able to negotiate another reason for your departure. We might work with the employer to reach a non-disclosure agreement so that they don’t discuss the matter with professional colleagues or prospective employers. Most importantly, they might agree to terminate you for a reason that isn’t going to be as damaging to your professional license.
Helping with Professional Licensing Issues
Even if your embarrassing issue comes to the attention of the professional licensing authority that oversees your work, all is not lost. There are ways that we can work with the licensing board in order to defend your career and license. In some cases, this means aggressively defending the charges against you. In other cases, it means negotiating for the best possible disposition.
For example, if you’re an attorney that faces an allegation of misappropriating client funds, we can negotiate with the bar for an appropriate resolution. Even if the association doesn’t agree to dismiss the allegations against you, they might agree to issue a warning rather than a suspension. That can mean the difference between staying in business or needing to close up shop.
How We Do It
Our passion for helping our clients get back to their lives is what drives us to give 100 percent in each case. We offer thorough, professional services without judgment. You’re going through a stressful time. We can deal with the stress on your behalf. Our team gets to the heart of the matter, and we make sure that we don’t miss details that can provide you a defense or mitigate your case.
Handling your case is about so much more than just knowing the laws and licensing rules. This type of case takes tact. It takes sensitivity and an eye for knowing how to approach the employer and the licensing authority.
No matter your licensing issue, we can help. Whether you’re a real estate agent, insurance professional, attorney, day care provider, health care professional, teacher or other licensed professional, we can help the licensing agency see why you’re an asset to the profession. Not only do we help the employer or licensing board understand the true nature of the allegations against you, but we help them understand why you’re an asset to your profession.
If you’re facing a potentially embarrassing professional issue, we invite you to contact us. Our team offers understanding and compassionate service aimed at helping you preserve your career and get back to life as normal as quickly as possible. Our consultations are free. Please contact us today to talk about your case.