Potential Expansion of FMLA Protection in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

By Clay Creps

We are endeavoring to keep you up-to-date on developments from COVID-19 impacting the workplace. In response to the pandemic, the U.S. House has passed a bill that would provide for paid leave and would expand protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The bill is not law, as it must first pass the Senate and then be signed by President Trump. However, during this time of openness to addressing the adverse impacts of the virus, it is likely the bill will ultimately become law.

HB 6201 would establish temporary benefits that would expire in January 2021. The law would apply to employers with fewer than 500 workers, and to employees who have been employed for at least 30 days. Employees would have the right to take up to 12 weeks of protected leave under FMLA for the following purposes:

  • To adhere to a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus;
  • To care for an at-risk family member who is adhering to a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; and
  • To care for a child of an employee if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to coronavirus.

The first two weeks of leave would be unpaid, although an employee could elect to substitute paid leave. Following that, the employee would receive an amount not less than two-thirds of the employee’s salary for the remaining weeks of leave. The media is reporting that employers would be reimbursed by the federal government through a refundable tax credit.

Please note: this is rapidly-evolving legislation and some of the above details have already changed. We will do our best to update our materials quickly and appropriately. 

UPDATE: On April 2, we published DOL Announces Temporary Rules for FFCRA which provides updated information on this topic.

If you have questions about the issues raised here, please contact any of the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Practice Group.

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