Coronavirus (COVID-19): Employee Leave Laws

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

This resource collects coronavirus developments related to employee leaves on the federal, state and local level. It will be continually updated and added to as developments with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic unfold.

Covered employers may be required to provide employees job-protected leave based on federal, state or local law, and in some instances, paid sick leave or family leave to eligible workers. Among other requirements, leave laws generally specify the qualifying reasons for leave. While several of these laws already contain protections when there is a public health emergency, some jurisdictions have issued various measures such as rules, guidance and FAQs expanding and/or clarifying employees' leave rights in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

Federal

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201 or FFCRA), signed into law on March 18, 2020, provides emergency FMLA leave and paid sick leave. Both provisions take effect no later than 15 days after the enactment of the Act (April 1, 2020) and expire December 31, 2020. For detailed information regarding the FFCRA please see Families First Coronavirus Response Act: COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Requirements..

State

California

California's Department of Industrial Relations published Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) - FAQs (FAQs) on laws enforced by the California Labor Commissioner's Office. The FAQs address various issues including paid sick leave, such as protections for self-quarantine as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19.

Colorado

Effective March 11, 2020, Colorado's Health Emergency Leave with Pay Rules (Rules), temporarily provide paid sick days to employees working in the following industries:

  • Leisure and hospitality;
  • Food services;
  • Child care;
  • Education at all levels (including related services, including but not limited to cafeterias and transportation to, from, and on campuses);
  • Home health care (working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals);
  • Nursing homes; and
  • Community living facilities.

Covered employers are required to provide up to four days of paid sick leave for an employee who has flu-like symptoms and is being tested for COVID-19. The paid sick leave ends if an employee receives a negative COVID-19 test result.

However, the Rules do not require an employer to offer additional days of paid sick leave if it already offers all employees an amount of paid leave sufficient to comply with the rules requirements. However, an employee who already exhausted their paid leave allotted by the employer, but then has flu-like symptoms and is being tested for COVID-19, the employee is entitled to the additional paid sick days the Rules provide.

The rules remain in effect for the longer of:

  • 30 days after adoption; or
  • The duration of the State of Disaster Emergency declared by the governor, up to a maximum of 120 days after adoption of the temporary rules.

District of Columbia

On March 17, 2020, the District of Columbia passed the COVID-19 Response Emergency Act of 2020. This Act provides, among other things, expanded coverage under the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA). This law entitles employees to take leave when an employee is unable to work during a period of time in which the mayor has declared a public health emergency and the mayor, other federal or state official, or a medical professional, has ordered or recommended that the employee self-isolate or quarantine. The law states that the one-year employment and 1,000-hour work eligibility requirements under the DCFMLA do not apply when an employee is ordered or recommended to quarantine or self-isolate. Further, the employer coverage requirements are suspended and applies to all employers in the District regardless of how many employees it employs. The law will remain in effect no longer than 90 days.

Nevada

The Office of the Nevada Labor Commissioner has issued guidance addressing use of accrued paid leave if an employee is unable to report to work because of a mandatory government quarantine.

New York

Effective March 18, 2020, New York provides for sick leave and certain employee benefits when an employee is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the department of health, local board of health or any governmental entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19. Further, during the period of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation, an employee is eligible for paid family leave benefits and benefits due pursuant to disability under the law.

The amount of sick leave to which an employee is entitled, and whether it is paid, depends on the size of the employer as of January 1, 2020, and the employer's net income.

The law does not apply in cases where an employee is asymptomatic or has not yet been diagnosed with any medical condition and is physically able to work while under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation, whether through remote access or other similar means.

Further, the law provides that if at any point while this law is in effect the federal government by law or regulation provides sick leave and/or employee benefits for employees related to COVID-19, then the law's provisions are not available. However, if this law provides sick leave and/or employee benefits in excess of the benefits provided by the federal government then employees are entitled to any difference between the benefits offered by this law and those offered by the federal government.

The state has released Paid Family Leave COVID-19: FAQs for guidance.

Oregon

Effective March 18, 2020, a temporary administrative order expands the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) by allowing employees to take up to 12 weeks of sick child leave to care for their child whose school or place of care has been closed due to a statewide public health emergency, including the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. All of the OFLA's requirements/obligations apply to this type of leave.

The temporary rule remains in effect until September 13, 2020.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries Offices also released FAQs specific to the coronavirus.

Local

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The City of Minneapolis Labor Standards Enforcement Division (Division) has posted guidance and FAQs on its Sick and Safe Time website to explain how its Sick and Safe Time Ordinance is interpreted by the Division during the current pandemic.

The guidance states that an employee's accrued sick and safe time hours are legally protected for their use due to coronavirus symptoms, testing or infection. Protection extends to the employee and the employee's care of a covered family member. The Ordinance protection includes, but is not limited to:

  • Coronavirus screening;
  • Care or quarantine due to coronavirus symptoms or infection;
  • Testing or quarantine following close personal contact with a coronavirus-infected or -symptomatic person;
  • Covered family members' school or place-of-care closure due to coronavirus; and
  • Workplace closure by order of a public official due to coronavirus.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The City of Philadelphia passed Supplemental Emergency Regulations (regulations), which expands its paid sick leave law, the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, so that covered workers can use their paid sick leave for COVID-19-related business closures, quarantine, and to stay home with their children during school closures without fear of retaliation. In particular, the regulations expand preventative medical care to include the following:

  • Evaluating a person under investigation for the coronavirus (COVID-19);
  • Self-quarantine for two weeks if the individual:
    • Has COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, dry cough or shortness of breath).
    • Returned to the US after travelling to a Tier 2 or Tier 3 country, as defined by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), for COVID-19.
    • Has come into contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Caring for a covered family member, when the family member is home because the place that normally provides care for the family member (i.e., school, daycare, adult care facility or other care facility where care would otherwise be provided), is closed.
  • With respect to an employee, the employee is at home, because the Governor, the Secretary of Health of Pennsylvania, the Mayor or the Health Commissioner ordered their place of business to close.
  • With respect to an employee, or a covered family member of the employee, the employee/family member self-quarantines because the Governor, the Secretary of Health of Pennsylvania, the Mayor or the Health Commissioner ordered residents of certain areas not to travel and travel is needed to go to work.
  • With respect to an employee, or a covered family member of the employee who has a greater risk of harm than the general population if the person contracts COVID-19, such as those with compromised immune systems who self-quarantine because of a recommendation by the CDC, the Governor, the Secretary of Health of Pennsylvania, the Mayor or the Health Commissioner of the Department of Public Health or a health care professional.

The regulations also include documentation requirements.

San Francisco, California

The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) has issued guidance regarding the use of San Francisco paid sick leave during the current local health emergency. The guidance address issues such as employee use of paid sick leave, eligibility for paid sick leave, employer verification of paid sick leave and employee separations.

Seattle, Washington

Effective March 18, 2020, amendments, to the Seattle's Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) allow employees to use their PSST when their family member's school or place of care has been closed. Also, the amendments require an employer with 250 or more full-time equivalent employees to allow their employees to take PSST when their place of business has been closed for any health or safety reason.

Seattle's Office of Labor Standards has also updated its COVID-19 Question and Answer resource.