How are your employment rights affected by the COVID-19 outbreak? Unfortunately, some California employers are taking advantage of the crisis and violating the rights of their employees. If that happens to you, a San Francisco employment rights attorney can help.

What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act? How will employment rights in California be affected by the COVID-19 crisis? What do working people need to know? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions and more about your employment rights.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (or FFCRA) is a federal law designed to help those affected by COVID-19. The law went into effect on April 1st, 2020, and its provisions will remain effective through December 31, 2020.

What Does the FCCRA Require?

The FFCRA requires many employers to provide certain workers with paid family or sick leave for specific reasons linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Labor enforces and administers the FCCRA’s paid leave regulations.

The FCCRA states that the employees of employers covered by the FCCRA qualify for:

1. Eighty hours of sick leave paid at an employee’s regular pay rate when the employee cannot work due to being quarantined, and/or that employee is manifesting symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking to obtain a medical diagnosis.

2. Eighty hours of leave paid at two-thirds of the usual rate if a person can’t work due to a need to care for a quarantined person or a minor child whose care provider or school is unavailable or closed, and/or the worker experiences a similar condition.

3. Another ten weeks of sick leave paid at two-thirds of the regular rate if a worker who has been employed for a minimum of thirty calendar days cannot work because of a need to take care of a child whose school or care provider is closed or unavailable.

Which Employers Are Covered by the FCCRA?

The FCCRA’s provisions apply to many government employers and to most private employers who have fewer than five hundred employees.

Every employee of every covered employer is eligible for eighty hours of paid leave for specific COVID-19-related reasons. Those employed for at least thirty days are eligible for ten additional weeks of paid family leave to care for a child in certain situations related to COVID-19.

Most federal employees are already covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act and therefore are not covered under the FCCRA, except for coverage by the FCCRA’s provision for paid sick leave.

What About Smaller Businesses?

Employers with less than fifty employees may be exempted from the mandate to offer paid leave because of childcare unavailability or closed schools if providing such leave would pose a risk the future of the employer’s business.

Employees should try to give notice of paid leave to their employers at the earliest possible date. During the period of leave, employers may require their employees to abide by procedures for reasonable (and ongoing) notice to keep receiving paid leave time.

What Reasons for Paid Leave Are Allowed by the FCCRA?

Under the new FFCRA, employees are eligible to receive paid sick leave if a worker cannot work (or cannot work from home) because that worker:

1. is under a local, state, or federal isolation or quarantine order due to COVID-19
2. was told by a healthcare professional to self-quarantine due to COVID-19
3. is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a diagnosis
4. cares for someone who is self-quarantined or under a quarantine or isolation order
5. cares for a child whose care provider or school is closed/unavailable due to COVID-19

For reasons 1 through 4 above, full-time employees qualify for 80 paid leave hours. Part-time employees are eligible for leave for the average total of hours that employee works in a period of two weeks.

For reason 5 above, full-time employees are eligible for twelve weeks of leave (two weeks of sick leave, and ten weeks of expanded medical and family leave) at forty hours per week. Part-time employees qualify for leave for the hours that they normally work during that period.

For reasons 1, 2, or 3 above, employees who take leave may be paid up to $511 a day and up to $5,110 over the two-week period.

For reason 4 above, an employee on leave may be paid up to $200 a day and up to $2,000 over the two-week period. For reason 5 above, an employee on leave may be paid up to $200 a day and up to $12,000 over the twelve-week period.

How Are Employers Obligated by the FCCRA?

Anyone who has been employed for thirty days by a qualified employer is eligible for leave under the FCCRA. That represents a substantial change from the twelve months and 1,250 hours previously required.

Employers are required to post a notice regarding the new leave entitlements in a location visible to all employees. Medical providers including dentists, and businesses with less than fifty employees, may be exempt from the FCCRA but remain subject to state and local regulation.

If Your Employment Rights Are Violated

If your California employer refuses to grant the paid leave that you are entitled to under the FCCRA – or violates your legal employment rights in any other way, discuss your situation with a San Francisco employment rights attorney. Here are two important suggestions:

1. Don’t try to be your own attorney or argue with your employer over the law. Your questions can be answered by the right California employment rights lawyer. If you need to take legal action, or if you need to learn more, an employment rights attorney can help.

2. Keep written records of anything that may be evidence that your rights were violated. Always put leave requests in writing, and make and keep copies. If you take legal action, your documents and notes may become evidence, so keep them securely stored.

Having the Law – and a Good Attorney – On Your Side

If you are cheated out of paid leave or wages, harassed, discriminated against, or targeted by an employer for retaliation, the law in California will be on your side. There is no tolerance in this state for unlawful behavior by employers.

The courts in California are committed to enforcing the laws that protect working people in our state, so if you can prove – with the right attorney’s help – that your employment rights have been violated, it is likely that you will prevail if you choose to take legal action.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.