California Labor &
Employment Law Blog
DOL Again Publishes Additional Guidance on FFCRA
Apr 6, 2020

DOL Again Publishes Additional Guidance on FFCRA

Topics: COVID-19

I know, these headlines are starting to sound repetitive, and it is a challenge to keep up with and determine how to comply with, the evolving guidance.  Hopefully it will all get more clearly sorted out before the end of the grace period on DOL enforcement of the FFCRA, which expires April 17.  In the meantime, employers should do their best to try to comply, in good faith, with the paid leave provision of the Act based on current guidance.  To that end, the DOL published some additional FAQ guidance this weekend.  The “final” rule implementing the FFCRA regulations was also published here, but the “final” rule is not materially different (as far as I can tell) from the “temporary” version that was published last Thursday.  In terms of additional FAQ, these provide new guidance on several areas, including the applicability of shelter at home orders; leave to care for a child whose school/child care is closed; seasonal employees; and staffing companies.  These new FAQ are questions 60-79.  The DOL also appears to have revised its FAQ on substitution of paid leave during expanded family leave (school closure leave) at questions 31 and 33.  The complete FAQ are available here, and are also set forth below.  However, I first want to provide my own comments on this additional guidance and on questions that are still unclear:

On the issue of when a state or local shelter-at-home order furnishes a qualifying use of paid sick under the FFCRA, this remains a little unclear despite the issuance of the regulations and DOL FAQ.  If an employee is an “essential” worker who is exempt from the shelter-at-home order, then the shelter-at-home order will not alone qualify that employee for paid sick leave.  However, if the employee is 65+ or has health conditions that make him/her high risk, then the shelter-at-home order probably does alone qualify the employee to use paid leave under the FFCRA, even if the employee is an “essential worker.”  (This still is not crystal clear from the guidance, but it’s my best interpretation at this time.)  If the employee is not an essential worker and is not working because the employer has closed its business due to a shelter-at-home order, the employee does not qualify for paid leave under the FFCRA.  If the employee has symptoms of Covid-19 and decides to self-quarantine, the DOL currently says that the employee is not eligible for paid sick leave unless the employee is seeking a medical diagnosis and/or has been advised by a medical provider to self-quarantine.  (See FAQ 60-63 below.)  If the employee is taking leave to care for someone who is subject to a shelter at home order, it is unclear whether it suffices that the employee has to care for someone who is 65+ and/or has heath conditions that render the person high risk.  What does it mean to "care for" such an individual?  Is the fact that an employee resides with such an individual and does not want to "risk" infecting that person enough to qualify the employee for leave?  This remains unclear.  Please continue to monitor this as I suspect there will be additional and/or changed guidance on this important issue of when a shelter-at-home order qualifies an employee to use paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

On the issue of substitution of paid leave during expanded FMLA leave due to the need to care for a child whose school/child care has closed, the guidance on this issue also remains a mess.  The regulations provide directly conflicting information on this issue, with some of the regulations suggesting that an employee may be required to utilize previously accrued paid time off during expanded FMLA school closure leave and that such leave runs concurrently with the paid, expanded FMLA leave provided under the FFCRA.  See, e.g. Sections 826.23, 826.160.  However, other regulations state the opposite—that an employee may elect, but may not be required to utilize previously accrued paid time off.  See, e.g., Sections 826.60, 826.70.  Meanwhile, the DOL’s FAQ (Questions 31, 33) now states that AFTER the first two weeks of expanded FMLA/school closure leave, an employee may elect OR MAY BE REQUIRED to use previously accrued paid time off (“but probably not sick leave”), which will run concurrently with the pay provided under the FFCRA for that 10-week period.  This FAQ directly conflicts with Section 826.70 though.  I expect this all of this conflicting guidance to be clarified over the next week.  In the meantime, employers would be wise NOT to require the use of any previously accrued paid time off for an employee using expanded FMLA leave under the FFCRA.  However, an employer may agree with an employee to allow the employee to use previously accrued paid leave in order to supplement the 2/3 pay they are receiving under the FFCRA, while recognizing that the employer will only receive the payroll tax credit for the amount of pay required by the FFCRA.  Only the amount of previously accrued paid time off needed to bring the employee up to 100% pay may be deducted from the employee’s paid leave bank.

Here is the text of the new FAQ, along with the revised versions of the old FAQ on the issue of substitution of paid leave: 

60How do I know if I can receive paid sick leave for a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19?

For purposes of the FFCRA, a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order includes quarantine or isolation orders, as well as shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, issued by any Federal, State, or local government authority that cause you to be unable to work (or to telework) even though your employer has work that you could perform but for the order. You may not take paid sick leave for this qualifying reason if your employer does not have work for you as a result of a shelter-in-place or a stay-at-home order. In the instance where your employer does not have work for you as a result of a shelter-in-place or a stay-at-home order, please see Questions 23-27.

61.  When am I eligible for paid sick leave to self-quarantine?

You are eligible for paid sick leave if a health care provider directs or advises you to stay home or otherwise quarantine yourself because the health care provider believes that you may have COVID-19 or are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and quarantining yourself based upon that advice prevents you from working (or teleworking).

62.  I am an employee. I become ill with COVID-19 symptoms, decide to quarantine myself for two weeks, and then return to work. I do not seek a medical diagnosis or the advice of a health care provider. Can I get paid for those two weeks under the FFCRA?

Generally no. If you become ill with COVID-19 symptoms, you may take paid sick leave under the FFCRA only to seek a medical diagnosis or if a health care provider otherwise advises you to self-quarantine. If you test positive for the virus associated with COVID-19 or are advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, you may continue to take paid sick leave. You may not take paid sick leave under the FFCRA if you unilaterally decide to self-quarantine for an illness without medical advice, even if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Note that you may not take paid sick leave under the FFCRA if you become ill with an illness not related to COVID-19. Depending on your employer’s expectations and your condition, however, you may be able to telework during your period of quarantine.

63.  When am I eligible for paid sick leave to care for someone who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order?

You may take paid sick leave to care for an individual who, as a result of being subject to a quarantine or isolation order (see Question 53), is unable to care for him or herself and depends on you for care and if providing care prevents you from working and from teleworking.

Furthermore, you may only take paid sick leave to care for an individual who genuinely needs your care. Such an individual includes an immediate family member or someone who regularly resides in your home. You may also take paid sick leave to care for someone if your relationship creates an expectation that you would care for the person in a quarantine or self-quarantine situation, and that individual depends on you for care during the quarantine or self-quarantine.

You may not take paid sick leave to care for someone with whom you have no relationship. Nor can you take paid sick leave to care for someone who does not expect or depend on your care during his or her quarantine or self-quarantine.

64.  Can I take paid sick leave to care for any individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or who has been advised to self-quarantine?

No. You may take paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for an immediate family member or someone who regularly resides in your home. You may also take paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for someone where your relationship creates an expectation that you care for the person in a quarantine or self-quarantine situation, and that individual depends on you for care during the quarantine or self-quarantine.

However, you may not take paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for someone with whom you have no relationship. Nor can you take paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for someone who does not expect or depend on your care during his or her quarantine or self-quarantine due to COVID-19.

65.  When am I eligible for paid sick leave to care for someone who is self-quarantining?

You may take paid sick leave to care for a self-quarantining individual if a health care provider has advised that individual to stay home or otherwise quarantine him or herself because he or she may have COVID-19 or is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and provision of care to that individual prevents you from working (or teleworking).

66.  May I take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for my child who is 18 years old or older?

It depends. Under the FFCRA, paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave include leave to care for one (or more) of your children when his or her school or place of care is closed or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. This leave may only be taken to care for your non-disabled child if he or she is under the age of 18. If your child is 18 years of age or older with a disability and cannot care for him or herself due to that disability, you may take paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for him or her if his or her school or place of care is closed or his or her child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, and you are unable to work or telework as a result.

In addition, paid sick leave is available to care for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19. If you have a need to care for your child age 18 or older who needs care for these circumstances, you may take paid sick leave if you are unable to work or telework as a result of providing care. But in no event may your total paid sick leave exceed two weeks.

67.  What is a “place of care”?

A “place of care” is a physical location in which care is provided for your child. The physical location does not have to be solely dedicated to such care. Examples include day care facilities, preschools, before and after school care programs, schools, homes, summer camps, summer enrichment programs, and respite care programs.

68.  Who is my “child care provider”?

A “child care provider” is someone who cares for your child. This includes individuals paid to provide child care, like nannies, au pairs, and babysitters. It also includes individuals who provide child care at no cost and without a license on a regular basis, for example, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or neighbors.

69.  Can more than one guardian take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave simultaneously to care for my child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons?

You may take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for your child only when you need to, and actually are, caring for your child if you are unable to work or telework as a result of providing care. Generally, you do not need to take such leave if a co-parent, co-guardian, or your usual child care provider is available to provide the care your child needs. See Question 20 for more details.

70.  My child’s school or place of care has moved to online instruction or to another model in which children are expected or required to complete assignments at home. Is it “closed”?

Yes. If the physical location where your child received instruction or care is now closed, the school or place of care is “closed” for purposes of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. This is true even if some or all instruction is being provided online or whether, through another format such as “distance learning,” your child is still expected or required to complete assignments.

71.  May I take paid sick leave to care for a child other than my child?

It depends. The paid sick leave that is provided under the FFCRA to care for one (or more) of your children when their place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable), due to COVID-19 related reasons, may only be taken to care for your own “son or daughter.” For an explanation of the definition of “son or daughter” for purposes of the FFCRA, please refer to Question 40.

However, paid sick leave is also available to care for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19. If you have a need to care for a child who meets these criteria, you may take paid sick leave if you are unable to work or telework as a result of providing care. But in no event may your total paid sick leave exceed two weeks.

72.  May I take expanded family and medical leave to care for a child other than my child?

No. Expanded family and medical leave is only available to care for your own “son or daughter.” For an explanation of the definition of “son or daughter” for purposes of the FFCRA, please refer to Question 40.

73.  When am I eligible for paid sick leave based on a “substantially similar condition” specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not yet identified any “substantially similar condition” that would allow an employee to take paid sick leave. If HHS does identify any such condition, the Department of Labor will issue guidance explaining when you may take paid sick leave on the basis of a “substantially similar condition.”

74If I am a staffing company, how do I count internal workers and staffed workers under the FFCRA?

Regardless of how you classify or count internal or staffed workers, you must provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to workers who are your “employees” for purposes of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, as described in Question 2. As Question 2 explains, you may be a joint employer, and if so, you must include in your count all employees on your payroll, even if you provide or refer such employees to other employers.

75.  As an employer, how much do I pay a seasonal employee with an irregular schedule for each day of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave that he or she takes?

You may calculate the daily amount you must pay a seasonal employee with an irregular schedule by taking the following steps.

First, you should calculate how many hours of leave your seasonal employee is entitled to take each day. Because your employee works an irregular schedule, this is equal to the average number of hours each day that he or she was scheduled to work over the period of employment, up to the last six months.

Second, you should calculate the seasonal employee’s regular hourly rate of pay. This is calculated by adding up all wages paid over the period of employment, up to the last six months, and then dividing that sum by the number of hours actually worked over the same period.

Third, you multiply the daily hours of leave (first calculation) by your employee’s regular hourly rate of pay (second calculation) to compute the base daily paid leave amount.

Fourth, you should determine the actual daily paid leave amount, which depends on the type of paid leave taken and the reason for such paid leave.

You must pay your seasonal employee the full base daily paid leave amount, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in total, if the employee is taking paid sick leave for any of the following reasons:

  • Your employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • Your employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
  • Your employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis.

You must pay your seasonal employee 2/3 of the base daily paid leave amount, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in total, if your employee is taking paid sick leave for any of the following reasons:

  • Your employee is caring for an individual who either is subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • Your employee is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
  • Your employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition, as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

You must pay your seasonal employee 2/3 of the base daily paid leave amount, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total, if the employee is taking expanded family and medical leave to care for the employee’s child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19-related reasons. Please note that if your seasonal employees are not scheduled to work, for example, because it is the off-season, then you do not have to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave.

76.  May I take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if I am receiving workers’ compensation or temporary disability benefits through an employer or state-provided plan?

In general, no, unless you were able to return to light duty before taking leave. If you receive workers’ compensation or temporary disability benefits because you are unable to work, you may not take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, if you were able to return to light duty and a qualifying reason prevents you from working, you may take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, as the situation warrants.

77.  May I take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA if I am on an employer-approved leave of absence?

It depends on whether your leave of absence is voluntary or mandatory. If your leave of absence is voluntary, you may end your leave of absence and begin taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA if a qualifying reason prevents you from being able to work (or telework). However, you may not take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA if your leave of absence is mandatory. This is because it is the mandatory leave of absence—and not a qualifying reason for leave—that prevents you from being able to work (or telework).

In the instance of a mandatory leave of absence, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

78.   Will DOL begin enforcing FFCRA immediately?

The Department will not bring enforcement actions against any public or private employer for violations of the Act occurring within 30 days of the enactment of the FFCRA, i.e., March 18 through April 17, 2020, provided that the employer has made reasonable, good faith efforts to comply with the Act. If the employer violates the Act willfully, fails to provide a written commitment to future compliance with the Act, or fails to remedy a violation upon notification by the Department, the Department reserves its right to exercise its enforcement authority during this period. After April 17, 2020, this limited stay of enforcement will be lifted, and the Department will fully enforce violations of the Act, as appropriate and consistent with the law.

79.  Does the non-enforcement position mean businesses do not need to comply with the FFCRA from the effective date of April 1, 2020 through April 17, 2020?

No, the FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective April 1, 2020. Private sector and public employers must comply with the provisions on the effective date even though the Department has a limited stay of enforcement until April 17, 2020. Once the Department fully enforces the Act, it will retroactively enforce violations back until the effective date of April 1, 2020, if employers have not remedied the violations.

31.  As an employee, may I use my employer’s preexisting leave entitlements and my FFCRA paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave concurrently for the same hours?

During the first two weeks of unpaid expanded family and medical leave, you may not simultaneously take paid sick leave under the EPSLA and preexisting paid leave, unless your employer agrees to allow you to supplement the amount you receive from paid sick leave with your preexisting paid leave, up to your normal earnings. After the first two workweeks (usually 10 workdays) of expanded family and medical leave under the EFMLEA, however, you may elect—or be required by your employer—to take your remaining expanded family and medical leave at the same time as any existing paid leave that, under your employer’s policies, would be available to you in that circumstance. This would likely include personal leave or paid time off, but not medical or sick leave if you are not ill.

If you are required to take your existing leave concurrently with your remaining expanded family and medical leave, your employer must pay you the full amount to which you are entitled under your existing paid leave policy for the period of leave taken. If you exhaust your preexisting paid leave and still are entitled to additional expanded family and medical leave, your employer must pay you at least 2/3 of your pay for subsequent periods of expanded family and medical leave taken, up to $200 per workday and $10,000 in the aggregate, for expanded family and medical leave.

33.  If I am an employer, may I require my employee to take paid leave he or she may have under my existing paid leave policy concurrently with expanded family and medical leave under the EFMLEA?

Yes. After the first two workweeks (usually 10 workdays) of expanded family and medical leave under the EFMLEA, you may require that your employee take concurrently for the same hours expanded family and medical leave and existing leave that, under your policies, would be available to the employee in that circumstance. This would likely include personal leave or paid time off, but not medical or sick leave if your employee (or a covered family member) is not ill.

If you do so, you must pay your employee the full amount to which he or she is entitled under your existing paid leave policy for the period of leave taken. You must pay your employee at least 2/3 of his or her pay for subsequent periods of expanded family and medical leave taken, up to $200 per workday and $10,000 in the aggregate, for expanded family and medical leave. If your employee exhausts all preexisting paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave, you would need to pay your employee at least 2/3 of his or her pay for subsequent periods of expanded family and medical leave taken, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate. You are free to amend your own policies to the extent consistent with applicable law.

About CDF

For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

> visit primary site

About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
> Contact   > Full Bio   Call 916.361.0991

Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger LLP © 2020

About CDF What We Do Contact Us Attorney Advertising Disclaimer Privacy Policy Cookie Policy