In the face of this crisis, the law is changing daily. And it has ramifications for employers already making moves to preserve liquidity. Both the state and the federal government enacted emergency requirements this week, and Parker Hudson’s COVID-19 Response Team is available and prepared to help.
1. Georgia DOL Emergency Unemployment Ruling
On Wednesday, the Georgia Commissioner of Labor, Mark Butler, issued an emergency ruling. Employers are hereby required to electronically file partial claims on behalf of their employees whenever they fail to work full time as a result of the novel Coronavirus (”COVID-19”). A “partial claim” is for any full-time employee that does not perform full time work during a workweek, so this emergency order would include employees placed on furlough. Instructions for filing partial claims can be found on the Department of Labor’s website. All Georgia employers will share in the cost of benefits paid to employees affected by COVID-19.
Any employer found to be in violation of this rule will be required to reimburse GDOL for the full amount of unemployment insurance benefits paid to the employee.
2. Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
This law goes into effect on April 2, 2020. The most notable provisions for employers are (1) the temporary expansion of FMLA through the end of 2020, and (2) the provision of paid sick leave for COVID-19 related events, including school closings and business shutdowns.
- FMLA expansion. The FMLA will be temporarily expanded until December 31, 2020 to require 12 weeks of leave for a COVID-19 related public health crisis, where an employee cannot work because they must care for a minor child due to school closure or where a child’s usual care facility is unavailable. The expansion will apply to those employers with under 500 employees, and to employees who have been employed for at least 30 days. Note, though, the Secretary of Labor has reserved the right to issue guidelines that exempt healthcare employees and first responders, as well as businesses with under 50 employees.
- The initial 10 days are unpaid. Remaining weeks must be paid at two-thirds the regular rate, capped at $200/day (total capped at $10,000).
- Leave is protected unless employer has fewer than 25 employees and other conditions are satisfied.
- Paid leave. The FFCRA also provides up to 10 days of sick leave for employees affected by COVID-19 in the following ways: (1) those experiencing symptoms and/or diagnosed with COVID-19, (2) employees caring for a family member experiencing symptoms and/or diagnosed with COVID-19, (3) an employee under quarantine, and (4) an employee caring for a child whose school or care facility is shutdown due to a COVID-19 related event. Similar to the FMLA expansion, only employers with less than 500 employees are covered; however, all employees are covered. The exemptions for paid sick leave mirror the carve-outs for the FMLA expansion.
- Paid at the regular rate if the leave is taken for the employee’s own care (capped at $511/day; $5,110 total)
- Paid at two-thirds the regular rate if taken for another person’s care (capped at $200/$2,000)
The legal landscape is changing daily, and employers should expect additional guidelines and updates in the days and weeks to come. While employers are certainly managing multiple concerns in light of COVID-19 and its effect on operations, compliance with forthcoming legislation is imperative. For additional information or questions regarding compliance, Parker Hudson’s COVID-19 Response Team is available and prepared to help.