Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Employment

Corona virus and employment laws

Coronavirus/Covid-19 and Your Employment: A pandemic is upon us and even the doubters are realizing that the Coronavirus aka COVID-19 is going to have a dramatic impact on our health, our daily lives, and our employment.  With all the drastic measures being taken by local, state, and federal government, it is important for you to know what your rights are as an employee in this unprecedented time. Because the actions of government and lawmakers are rapidly changing, we will keep this article updated as the changes go into effect.

For information on the March 25, 2020, $2 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package Click Here.

*UPDATE 3.19.2020*

Note: Family First Coronavirus Response Act does not go into effect until April 1, 2020

The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” has passed the Senate and has been signed by President Trump.

  1. Federal/National Measures – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 18, 2020, the President signed a law to help ease the financial toll of the Coronovirus on the financial industry, the economy, and – most importantly – on individuals.   The full text of the law can be found here: Family First Coronavirus Response Act.  Here are the key provisions effecting your employment

A.  Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19

Employers with 500 or less employees must immediately make 80 hours of paid sick leave available for full-time employees.  For part-time employees, the employers must make available the equivalent of the average number of hours scheduled over to weeks.  Paid sick leave would apply for the following reasons:

        1. An employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order because of COVID-19.
        2. An employee has been advised by a healthcare professional to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.
        3. An employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and presently seeking a medical diagnosis.
        4. An employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2)
        5. The employee is caring for their son or daughter if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of the son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related issues or concerns.
        6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Paid sick leave is at the employee’s regular rate of pay, but capped: $511 per day and $5,110 in total for a use described in paragraph (1), (2), or (3); and $200 per day and $2,000 in total for a use described in paragraph (4), (5), or (6).

B.  Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Also, the law amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide additional job-protected leave for employees who are unable to work (or work-from-home) due to a need to care for the employee’s child if the child’s elementary or secondary school or place of childcare has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a federal, state, or local authority. The FMLA amendment also changes eligibility requirements to cover those employees that have been employed for 30 days (a reduction from 1-year).  Under the FMLA amendment, the employer can provide the first 10 days of leave unpaid, then future absences beyond the 10-days must be paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay. The Act includes a cap of $200 a day and $10,000 in total. If the first 10 days are unpaid, an employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical/sick leave for the unpaid leave.The standard notice requirements of the FMLA are still required.  Here is a link to the proper FMLA forms.

Both provisions permit an employer of healthcare providers or emergency responders to  exclude the employees from the application of these two provisions.  Additionally, both provisions allow future U.S. Department of Labor regulations to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the provision would jeopardize the viability of the business.

*UPDATE 3.18.2020* The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance titled, What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19 and points to previous guidance it has issued on pandemics titled, Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The EEOC guidance on COVID-19 answers questions related to employers requiring that you work from home, calling in sick, taking body temperature, returning to work and job applications/screening.

  • An employer can ask if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat.
  • An employer can take your body temperature.
  • An employer can require employees to work from home.
  • An employer can require doctor’s note to return to the workplace. However, this may not prove to be practical and could overwhelm medical professionals.

Next, let’s talk about the current laws in place that also offer protection for employees:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – the ADA applies to employers of 15 or more. The ADA prevents discrimination on the basis of a disability or a perceived disability.  Whether Coronavirus would constitute a “disability” under the ADA would be an issue of first impression for the Courts. It would likely be determined on a case-by-case basis and depend on the severity and longevity of the illness for that specific individual.  The ADA also provides Reasonable Accommodations that can include working from home and medical leave. It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals that request a reasonable accommodation.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – The FMLA applies to employers with 50 employees or more within a 75 mile radius.  The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for a serious medical condition, with job protection. The Coronavirus would likely qualify as a “serious medical condition,”  especially if you seek medical care and are prescribed medication related to the illness.  If you have questions about your FMLA eligibility or how to apply for FMLA, contact our FMLA attorneys or your Human Resource office.

State of Ohio Measures

On March 15, 2020 Governor Dewine held a press conference and made several announcements related to the measures Ohio is taking related to Coronavirus/COVID-19. He announced that all restaurants and bars will be closed immediately, except for carry-out and delivery. This is following the closure of all Ohio schools. The impact on small businesses will be devastating.  Governor DeWine also announced an Order that will change unemployment requirements which consist of:

  • Ohio’s current one-week waiting period before an individual can receive unemployment will be waived
  • Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will waive employer penalties for late reporting and payments for the next quarter to assist employers impacted by the lack of staff availability

Those that are quarantined by a doctor or by their employer will be considered unemployed and will be eligible for unemployment benefits. Those currently receiving unemployement benefits will not be asked to show they are seeking work during this period. Employees imposing self-quarantine who are not showing symptoms will not be, in most cases, eligible for unemployment benefits.

To apply for unemployment benefits in Ohio:

    • Online: File online at unemployment.ohio.gov 24/7
    • Phone: Call 1-877-644-6562 or 614-387-8408 M-F 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Ohio’s coronavirus call center is open to answer questions from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The hotline number is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or 1-833-427-5634.

If you have questions related to these laws or you feel that your employer is not complying with the laws, contact our Ohio employment attorneys.

Mansell Law is an employment law firm located in Columbus, Ohio. The employment attorneys at Mansell Law represent clients all over the state of Ohio in cases related to employment, including wrongful termination, hostile work environment, medical leave, unpaid wages and overtime, and much more. For more information on our practice areas, visit our Ohio Labor Laws page.

Related Information:

Coronavirus Stimulus Package ($2 Trillion Dollars) – 4 Keys Points to Know

Are you Eligible for Medical Leave Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

What is a “Reasonable Accommodation” Under the ADA?

Six Critical Steps to Take Before Filing an Employment Lawsuit