A client emailed me yesterday asking if I’d read about the new COVID-19 quarantine restrictions for travelers to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Specifically, the client asked whether they could trigger a need to provide leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Maybe your state has similar restrictions, and you’re looking for answers too.
Well, you’ve come to the right place.
It’s been a minute since we’ve discussed the details of the FFCRA at The Employer Handbook. Here is a quick refresher courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor:
Generally, FFRCA provides that covered employers must provide to all employees:
- 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 (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or 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.
A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days:
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Is this a quarantine or isolation order?
Today’s we’re going to focus on the red highlighted language. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the States of Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, now mandate a 14-day self-quarantine for individuals returning from certain other U.S. states where COVID-19 cases have spiked. Ergo the client question, if returning employees must quarantine, are they eligible for paid sick leave (PSL) under the FFCRA because the employee is quarantined under a State government order?
Do they get FFCRA leave?
An employee subject to a quarantine or isolation order is only eligible for PSL if s/he has unused PSL available and cannot otherwise work remotely.
For example, if I already took 80 hours of PSL to care for a loved one with COVID-19, I can’t get any more PSL. Instead, I can only use accrued but unused PTO subject to the terms and conditions of the PTO policy. By way of further example, if I can work from home — and y’all know that I can — then I’m not PSL-eligible either.
And how about employees traveling out of state?
Let’s assume that you operate a business in Texas, and one of your local employees craves a cheesesteak and to be closer to a legitimate professional football team? So, she flies to Philadelphia — sorry, Pittsburgh — only to realize upon arrival that she must quarantine for 14 days. Is she eligible for PSL?
Sure, subject to the same caveats addressed above.
Should local employers require that employees returning from COVID-19 hotspots quarantine?
Yep. Hey look, I didn’t make the rules. But, I would encourage employers to follow them.
What about FMLA leave or ADA accommodations?
No, and no, unless the employee has COVID-19. And, even then, it depends on whether the employee gets treatment (FMLA) and if the virus substantially limits one or more major life activities, and the employee needs help doing her job (ADA).
Is there a CDC “Considerations for Travelers—Coronavirus in the US” resource?
Have you got anything else for us, Eric?
Actually, I could use a favor.
Please spoil the ending of Money Heist on Netflix for me. Yeah, you read that right.
It’s about six episodes too long, the dubbed voices are killing me, I have too many chips in the pot to fold now, and I can’t bring myself to read the spoilers online. TIA.