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COVID-19 RELIEF BILL VS. FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed a $900 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (“Relief Bill”) providing for, in part, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment benefit, direct payment checks of up to $600 per adult and child, $284 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans, and $25 billion in rental assistance.

Many have  inquired about the impact of the new COVID-19 Relief Bill on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) described in our previous blog post.  Recall that, under FFCRA, small employers (under 500 employees) were required to pay eligible employees paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave.  Are small employers still required to pay emergency sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to eligible employees? No, FFCRA expired, as intended, on December 31, 2020. However, The Relief Bill allows employers, on a voluntary basis, to continue to provide such leave through March 31, 2021 in exchange for a payroll tax credit. (Employers should seek advice from tax advisors).

What does this mean for employers?

  1.  State Leave Laws: All employers should determine what, if any, paid sick leave laws have been imposed under state law.
  2. Reconsider Leave Policies. For employers who do not intend to extend such leave on a voluntary basis, these employers should modify their paid and/or unpaid leave policies. Again, it is important for employers to seek advice from tax advisors about the tax benefits, if any, of extending paid leave.
  3. Consider FMLA Calculations. Employers must consider the impact of FFCRA leave that they provided in 2020 on entitlements to Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave that may be available in 2021. In other words,  FFCRA leave  granted in 2020 counted against an employee’s regular FMLA entitlement for leave corresponding with a serious health condition or another FMLA-qualifying reason.
  4. Potential Liability. The Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently announced that it will continue to enforce the FFCRA leave taken or requested during the effective period of April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020, for complaints made within the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for both the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA is two years from the date of the alleged violation (or three years in cases involving alleged willful violations). Therefore, if an employer failed to pay leave, as required by the FFCRA, for  leave that occurred before December 31, 2020 an employee may file a complaint with the DOL or a private lawsuit within two years of the last violation of the FFCRA.

For more information, contact York Bowman Law, LLC  at 678.771.3268.

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