THE FFCRA ACT AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU

It feels like the FFCRA, which passed on March 18,2020, was passed and has now been largely ignored since the new CARES Act has approved by President Trump. However, the FFCRA affects everyone and everyone should know what's available to them at this time. We know there’s a lot of confusing information out there on help for workers and small businesses. So we looked through the FFCRA and CARES Act so you don’t have to!

First and Foremost, FFCRA, that was put into effect 4/1/2020, will be an enormous help in the United States to combat and defeat the COVID-19 impact on individuals and businesses by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will ensure that workers and businesses are not forced to choose between paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus and it’s spread.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is centered around requiring companies to provide employees with sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for reasons specifically related to the Corona Virus/COVID-19. These regulations are effective from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

Generally, the Act 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.

For a full list of qualifying reasons for leave and calculation of pay please visit : https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave

Enforcing Paid Leave Rights Under The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will enforce the rights of eligible employees to receive paid leave benefits under the FFCRA. Because FFCRA modifies the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993) through the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) FMLA’s enforcement provisions still apply.

The new FFCRA, EFMLEA, AND EPSLA provisions barr employers from terminating employees who exercise their rights under the EPSLA, including taking paid leave or filing any complaint relating to the EPSLA. If an employer unlawfully fires an employee or withholds paid sick leave, the employer will be subject to penalties set forth by Sections 16 and 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

However, there is a grace period.

Per the DOL’s Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-1, the DOL, through its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will not bring any enforcement actions against any employer (private or public) for the first 30 days of the FFCRA’s enactment (March 18,2020 – April 18,2020). This means until April 18, 2020, employers will be able to potentially avoid punishment if they do not pay employees while they are away from work because of the coronavirus. But employers must act “reasonably” and “in good faith” during this 30 day grace period.

To be deemed to have acted reasonably and in good faith, an employer must meet the following three requirements:

  • The employer fixes any problem resulting from the FFCRA violation, “including making all affected employees whole as soon as practicable.”
  • The employer cannot “willfully” violate the FFCRA.
  • The employer sends a letter to the DOL indicating its intention to comply with the FFCRA in the future.
  • Concerning the first requirement, presumably this means an employer can avoid an FFCRA violation by retroactively paying an employee his or her unpaid leave benefits. As for an employer acting “willfully,” this means an employer “knew or showed reckless disregard” as to the legality of its conduct.

Unemployment Insurance Flexibilities

In addition to Enforcing Paid Leave Rights, the Employment and Training Administration has put out a new guidance with the FFCRA which is allowing states to bend the rules in regards to Unemployment Insurance in response to COVID-19. The US Department of Labor has extended the cases of where states can legally pay benefits:

  • An employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19, preventing employees from coming to work;
  • An individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over; and
  • An individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member.

If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services for Texas or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

We also encourage you to sign up for Electronic Correspondence so you can receive your TWC communications online as soon as possible. 

For more information on resources that are available to you please visit our blog article on the CARES act, or our article on Tips for surviving and thriving during the corona virus or visit www.dol.gov/coronavirus .