Coronavirus FAQ


Employers are in unchartered waters with how COVID-19 (Coronavirus) is affecting them. This FAQ page is an always evolving page to ensure you have the latest answers on the most popular and common questions. 

Information on COVID-19 is changing rapidly, and it can be overwhelming.  First, please remember to breathe- you got this!  Second, Journey Payroll & HR is here to help you navigate through this difficult time.  You need someone you can trust, because information found online is not always accurate. 

In addition to this page, please also check out our Journey Together movement.  We’re in this together, and we’re here to help you in any way we can.   If you have any HR questions specific to your situation, the Journey Full plan can answer any questions you have via phone or email, unlimited.  Please ask your payroll specialist for more details about this HR feature by asking to be on the Journey Full plan.

Legal
Are contributions to a multiemployer fund, plan, or other program the only way an employer that is part of a multiemployer collective bargaining agreement may comply with the paid leave requirements of the FFCRA?

No. Both the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provide that, consistent with its bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement, an employer may satisfy its legal obligations under both Acts by making appropriate contributions to such a fund, plan, or other program based on the paid leave…

Assuming I am a covered employer, which of my employees are eligible for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave?

Both of these new provisions use the employee definition as provided by the Fair Labor Standards Act, thus all of your U.S. (including Territorial) employees who meet this definition are eligible including full-time and part-time employees, and “joint employees” working on your site temporarily and/or through a temp agency. However, if you employ a health care provider…

Can we take our employee’s temperatures before they start work?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an update to its guidance with this question on March 17, 2020. It now says employers may implement temperature screening measures in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the EEOC cautions employers to “be aware that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever.” At…

COVID-19 Labor Law Poster

Where can I find this poster? You can download it here. Where do I post this notice? Each covered employer must post a notice in a visible place on its premises, or email it to all your employees, or upload it into your company’s Journey HUB account. Your employees have free access to Journey’s HUB…

Do employees keep their privacy rights during a pandemic like COVID-19?

Yes. Both federal and state laws recognize that employees maintain certain privacy rights in the workplace, including a medical condition or personal health information. But this right is not absolute and must be balanced against a company’s legitimate business needs. For example, the ADA and FMLA, prohibit employers from disclosing confidential medical information, including the…

If I am an employer, may I require an employee to supplement or adjust the pay mandated under the FFCRA with paid leave that the employee may have under my paid leave policy?

No. Under the FFCRA, only the employee may decide whether to use existing paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave from your paid leave policy to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. The employee would have to agree to use existing paid leave under your…

If I am an employer, may I supplement or adjust the pay mandated under the FFCRA with paid leave that the employee may have under my paid leave policy?

If your employee chooses to use existing leave you have provided, yes; otherwise, no. Paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave under the FFCRA is in addition to employees’ preexisting leave entitlements, including Federal employees. Under the FFCRA, the employee may choose to use existing paid vacation, personal, medical, or sick leave from your…

If I elect to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, must my employer continue my health coverage? If I remain on leave beyond the maximum period of expanded family and medical leave, do I have a right to keep my health coverage?

If your employer provides group health coverage that you’ve elected, you are entitled to continued group health coverage during your expanded family and medical leave on the same terms as if you continued to work. If you are enrolled in family coverage, your employer must maintain coverage during your expanded family and medical leave. You…

If providing child care-related paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave at my business with fewer than 50 employees would jeopardize the viability of my business as a going concern, how do I take advantage of the small business exemption?

To elect this small business exemption, you should document why your business with fewer than 50 employees meets the criteria set forth by the Department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations. You should not send any materials to the Department of Labor when seeking a small business exemption for paid sick…

What do I do if my employer, who I believe to be covered, refuses to provide me expanded family and medical leave to care for my own son or daughter whose school or place of care has closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, for COVID-19 related reasons?

If you believe that your employer is covered and is improperly refusing you expanded family and medical leave or otherwise violating your rights under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, the Department encourages you to raise and try to resolve your concerns with your employer. Regardless whether you discuss your concerns with your…

When does the small business exemption apply to exclude a small business from the provisions of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees (small business) is exempt from providing paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small…

Money
Can we reduce pay because of economic slowdown due to COVID-19?

Yes. You can reduce a worker’s rate of pay based on business or economic slowdown. Non-exempt employees (those entitled to overtime) A non-exempt employee’s new rate of pay must still meet the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage. Employees must be given notice of the change to their rate of pay, and some states…

If we choose to close temporarily, do we need to pay employees?

POTENTIALLY. It depends on the classification of your employee. Non-exempt employees need to be paid only for hours that they actually worked. For these employees, you may: Pay the employee, even though they didn’t work;Require they take the time off, unpaid;Require they use any available vacation time or PTO; orAllow your employee to choose between…

To minimize layoffs, what are the most popular ways to save?

Well, these are unchartered waters, and everyone in our country is in the same boat. Right now, people are mostly happy to have a job and be paid. If they know you’re doing what’s best for the company and for them, and the communication is transparent and from the heart, you can cut other items…

What is my regular rate of pay for purposes of the FFCRA?

For purposes of the FFCRA, the regular rate of pay used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate over a period of up to six months prior to the date on which you take leave. If you have not worked for your current employer for six months, the regular rate used to calculate…

Refusal To Work
Can your employees refuse to travel to areas considered safe from COVID-19?

MAYBE. Yes, you can require employees to travel if it’s in a safe location per current notices, and if it’s safe to fly from where they currently are. Under OSHA, you will need to continue to provide a safe workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death…

What if I have an employee that is scared and refuses to come to work?

On any other day, an employee does NOT have a right to refuse to work and expect to keep their position. Well, in general, that rule still applies. If the workplace is safe, with no quarantine rules in force, and is not based on objective evidence of possible exposure, then you can enforce your attendance…

Safety
Can we send employees home if they show symptoms?

YES. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised businesses that if an employee appears to have symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. cough, fever, shortness of breath), they should be separated from other employees and sent home immediately. If your employee would still like to work, consider having them work from home. Note: Non-exempt…

What if my employee lets us know that their family member or roommate has COVID-19?

Health is the most important concern for all of us. We recommend sending the employee home or having them work remotely. Most importantly, we recommend that the employer advise the employee to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. The individual should assess their risk and determine next steps. Please see Tables…

What should an employer do to keep the office safe?

Employers should have measures in place to eliminate or manage the risks from COVID-19. To do this, you should keep up to date with the latest COVID-19 information and take quick action on any new ideas given by health authorities. Also, talk with other businesses in the community and share ideas. You will not be…

What should we do if a worker says their symptoms are not related to COVID-19?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells businesses to send their workers home when they have COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. The CDC also is asking employers not to request a doctors note for any employee’s sickness because of the current…

Work From Home
Can we require or allow certain groups of employees, but not others, to work from home?

Yes. Employers may offer different benefits or terms of employment to different groups of employees as long as the distinction is based on non-discriminatory criteria. For instance, a telecommuting option or requirement can be based on the type of work performed, employee classification (exempt v. non-exempt), or location of the office or the employee. The…

How do I make a telecommuting policy?

Even though some businesses will be relaxed sending everyone home with their laptop and saying, take care of your own business and lets stay in touch, others won’t. Most actually will want to be more specific. A good telecommuting policy will generally address productivity standards, hours of work, how and when employees should be in…

Our business is considering moving to remote work. What issues should be considered?

Call your insurance agent for your Workers’ Compensation insurance and ensure your workers are covered to work remotely. If they’re not, add that coverage. (If you’re connected with a trusted insurance broker, please let us know.)Prepare yourself financially with business loans or re-negotiating large expenses such as leases, to make sure you can cover those…

Work Status
Can any type of leave apply to COVID-19?

Whether FMLA, or a state family and medical leave, or insurance program will apply to a particular case of COVID-19 will be fact-specific. Even if FMLA or state leaves do not apply, we would recommend that employers treat leaves related to this illness as job-protected, both for legal reasons and because it’s the right thing…

Do I have a right to return to work if I am taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

Generally, yes. In light of Congressional direction to interpret requirements among the Acts consistently, WHD clarifies that the Acts require employers to provide the same (or a nearly equivalent) job to an employee who returns to work following leave. In most instances, you are entitled to be restored to the same or an equivalent position…

How does the “for each working day during each of the 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar” language in the FMLA definition of “employer” work under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

The language about counting employees over calendar workweeks is only in the FMLA’s definition for employer. This language does not apply to the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for purposes of expanded family and medical leave. Employers should use the number of employees on the day the employee’s leave would start to determine…

I’ve elected to take paid sick leave and I am currently in a waiting period for my employer’s health coverage. If I am absent from work on paid sick leave during the waiting period, will my health coverage still take effect after I complete the waiting period on the same day that the coverage would otherwise take effect?

Yes. If you are on employer-provided group health coverage, you are entitled to group health coverage during your paid sick leave on the same terms as if you continued to work. Therefore, the requirements for eligibility, including any requirement to complete a waiting period, would apply in the same way as if you continued to…

If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?

You may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave. You may take both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19…

If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but before I go out on leave, can I still get paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer closes after the FFCRA’s effective date (even if you requested leave prior to the closure), you will not get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or…

If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No, not while your worksite is closed. If your employer closes your worksite, even for a short period of time, you are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business…

If my employer is open, but furloughs me on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer furloughs you because it does not have enough work or business for you, you are not entitled to then take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. However, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific…

Is all leave under the FMLA now paid leave?

No. The only type of family and medical leave that is paid leave is expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act when such leave exceeds ten days. This includes only leave taken because the employee must care for a child whose school or place of care is closed,…

May I take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act over the next 12 months if I used some or all of my expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

It depends. You may take a total of 12 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period under the FMLA, including the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. If you take some, but not all 12, workweeks of your expanded family and medical leave by December 31, 2020, you may take the remaining portion of FMLA…

May I take my expanded family and medical leave intermittently while my child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, if I am not teleworking?

Yes, but only with your employer’s permission. Intermittent expanded family and medical leave should be permitted only when you and your employer agree upon such a schedule. For example, if your employer and you agree, you may take expanded family and medical leave on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but work Tuesdays and Thursdays, while your…

What is a full-time employee under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act? 

For purposes of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, a full-time employee is an employee who is normally scheduled to work 40 or more hours per week. In contrast, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act does not distinguish between full- and part-time employees, but the number of hours an employee normally works each…

What is a part-time employee under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act? 

For purposes of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, a part-time employee is an employee who is normally scheduled to work fewer than 40 hours per week. In contrast, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act does not distinguish between full- and part-time employees, but the number of hours an employee normally works each…

What’s the difference between a layoff and a furlough?

The language is important, but communicating your actual intent is much more important. Your team will feel uncertain, though be confident in communicating your plans to them. Be honest, upfront, and provide resources (i.e. how to file unemployment, who is hiring around town, etc) Furlough A furlough means you plan on keeping the worker employed.…

When am I able to telework under the FFCRA?

You may telework when your employer permits or allows you to perform work while you are at home or at a location other than your normal workplace. Telework is work for which normal wages must be paid and is not compensated under the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.

When calculating pay due to employees, must overtime hours be included?

Yes. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires you to pay an employee for hours the employee would have been normally scheduled to work even if that is more than 40 hours in a week.  However, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires that paid sick leave be paid only up to 80…

Where do I send my employees to file for unemployment?

The federal government is letting each state to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits more swiftly to laid-off employees, due to COVID-19. You will want to send the individuals you laid off to the states website they reside in. You can find that site here.