Let’s say that your child attends school either on a hybrid or full-time schedule. Your child comes into close contact with another person with COVID-19. The school instructs you to quarantine your child at home for 14 days while the class continues.
Are you eligible for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)? Let’s find out.
Step 1: Do you work for a “covered employer”?
The FFCRA requires covered employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Covered employers are certain public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. If you work for a company that does not check either box, then the answer to today’s question is NO.
Step 2: Can you work?
If you work for a covered employer, the next question is whether you can work when your child is home. Indeed, the FFCRA provides two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular pay rate, where the employee is unable to work. So, if you can work or telework, then the answer to today’s question is NO.
Step 3: Does the FFCRA even cover this situation?
In general, the FFCRA requires covered employers to provide eligible employees up to two weeks of paid sick leave when the employee is unable to work because the employee:
- is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19,
- has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19,
- is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis,
- needs to care for an individual subject to a Federal, State, or local [government] quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19,
- needs to care for the employee’s son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons, or
- is experiencing a substantially similar condition, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Potentially, we’re dealing with reasons 4 or 5 there. Now, if a doctor advises your child to quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, and you need to care for the child, then YES, that triggers reason number 4.
But, what if no healthcare provider weighs in and the school requires the child to stay home for two weeks anyway? Might that still qualify under reason number 4 as a local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19?
For starters, the answer could hinge on whether your child goes to a public or private school. The latter is clearly not a governmental entity. But a public school is part of a school district and 0perates at a local level. Elected school boards exercise broad policy oversight of operations, budgets, and staff and may oversee local school curricula within state guidelines. Therefore, YES, a public school directive to quarantine for 14 days sounds a lot like a quarantine or isolation or order from a locality.
Public or private, a school order to quarantine for 14 days also may satisfy reason number 5. The Department of Labor has already stated that when a school is closed due to COVID-19; i.e., it is not open for your child to attend, you may be eligible for FFCRA leave. While technically, the school remains open, and class continues, your child does not have the option of attending. So, YES, you should be eligible for FFCRA leave if you need to care for the child when the child is in quarantine. But, if after the quarantine period ends, you decide to keep your child home, you would no longer be eligible for FFCRA leave.
What do you think?
Did I get it right? If not, you’ll need to arm-wrestle me for it.