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.

EE Retention Credit

May an Eligible Employer receive the Employee Retention Credit for periods after December 31, 2020?

No. The Employee Retention Credit is only available with respect to wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021.

May an Eligible Employer receive both the Employee Retention Credit and a Small Business Interruption Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program that is authorized under the CARES Act?

No. An Eligible Employer may not receive the Employee Retention Credit if the Eligible Employer receives a Small Business Interruption Loan under the Paycheck Protection Program that is authorized under the CARES Act (“Paycheck Protection Loan”). An Eligible Employer that receives a paycheck protection loan should not claim Employee Retention Credits.

May an Eligible Employer receive both the tax credits for the qualified leave wages under the FFCRA and the Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act?

Yes, but not for the same wages. The amount of qualified wages for which an Eligible Employer may claim the Employee Retention Credit does not include the amount of qualified sick and family leave wages for which the employer received tax credits under the FFCRA.

How can an Eligible Employer that is paying qualified wages fund the payment of these wages if the Eligible Employer does not have sufficient federal employment taxes set aside for deposit to cover those payments? Can the employer get an advance of the credits?

Yes. Because quarterly returns are not filed until after qualified wages are paid, some Eligible Employers may not have sufficient federal employment taxes set aside for deposit to the IRS to fund their qualified wages. Accordingly, the IRS has established a procedure for obtaining an advance of the refundable credits.

The Eligible Employer should first reduce its remaining federal employment tax deposits for wages paid in the same calendar quarter by the maximum allowable amount. If the anticipated credit for the qualified wages exceeds the remaining federal employment tax deposits for that quarter, the Eligible Employer can file a Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19, to claim an advance refund for the full amount of the anticipated credit for which it did not have sufficient federal employment tax deposits.

If an Eligible Employer fully reduces its required deposits of federal employment taxes otherwise due on wages paid in the same calendar quarter to its employees in anticipation of receiving the credits, and it has not paid qualified wages in excess of this amount, it should not file the Form 7200. If it files the Form 7200, it will need to reconcile this advance credit and its deposits with the qualified wages on Form 941 (or other applicable federal employment tax return such as Form 944 or Form CT-1), and it may have an underpayment of federal employment taxes for the quarter.

Example: An Eligible Employer paid $20,000 in qualified wages, and is therefore entitled to a credit of $10,000, and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in federal employment taxes, including taxes withheld from all of its employees, on wage payments made during the same calendar quarter. The Eligible Employer has no paid sick or family leave credits under the FFCRA. The Eligible Employer can keep the entire $8,000 of taxes that the Eligible Employer was otherwise required to deposit without penalties as a portion of the credits it is otherwise entitled to claim on the Form 941. The Eligible Employer may file a request for an advance credit for the remaining $2,000 by completing Form 7200.

May an Eligible Employer reduce its federal employment tax deposit by the qualified wages that it has paid without incurring a failure to deposit penalty?

Yes. An Eligible Employer will not be subject to a penalty under section 6656 of the Code for failing to deposit federal employment taxes relating to qualified wages in a calendar quarter if:

  • the Eligible Employer paid qualified wages to its employees in the calendar quarter before the required deposit,
  • the amount of federal employment taxes that the Eligible Employer does not timely deposit, reduced by any amount of federal employment taxes not deposited in anticipation of the paid sick or family leave credits claimed under the FFCRA, is less than or equal to the amount of the Eligible Employer’s anticipated Employee Retention Credit for the qualified wages for the calendar quarter as of the time of the required deposit, and
  • the Eligible Employer did not seek payment of an advance credit by filing Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19, with respect to any portion of the anticipated credits it relied upon to reduce its deposits.

For more information, about the relief from the penalty for failure to deposit federal employment taxes on account of qualified wages, see Notice 2020-22 (PDF).

Can an Eligible Employer paying qualified wages fund its payments of qualified wages before receiving the credits by reducing its federal employment tax deposits?

Yes. An Eligible Employer may fund the qualified wages by accessing federal employment taxes, including those that the Eligible Employer already withheld, that are set aside for deposit with the IRS, for other wage payments made during the same quarter as the qualified wages.

That is, an Eligible Employer that pays qualified wages to its employees in a calendar quarter before it is required to deposit federal employment taxes with the IRS for that quarter may reduce the amount of federal employment taxes it deposits for that quarter by half of the amount of the qualified wages paid in that calendar quarter. The Eligible Employer must account for the reduction in deposits on the Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, for the quarter.

Example: An Eligible Employer paid $10,000 in qualified wages (including qualified health plan expenses) and is therefore entitled to a $5,000 credit, and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in federal employment taxes, including taxes withheld from all of its employees, for wage payments made during the same quarter as the $10,000 in qualified wages. The Eligible Employer has no paid sick or family leave credits under the FFCRA. The Eligible Employer may keep up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes the Eligible Employer was going to deposit, and it will not owe a penalty for keeping the $5,000. The Eligible Employer is required to deposit only the remaining $3,000 on its required deposit date. The Eligible Employer will later account for the $5,000 it retained when it files Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, for the quarter.

How does an Eligible Employer claim the refundable tax credit for qualified wages?

Eligible Employers will report their total qualified wages and the related credits for each calendar quarter on their federal employment tax returns, usually Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return. Form 941 is used to report income and social security and Medicare taxes withheld by the employer from employee wages, as well as the employer’s portion of social security and Medicare tax.

In anticipation of receiving the credits, Eligible Employers can fund qualified wages by accessing federal employment taxes, including withheld taxes, that are required to be deposited with the IRS or by requesting an advance of the credit from the IRS.

What makes the credit “fully refundable”?

The credits are fully refundable because the Eligible Employer may get a refund if the amount of the credit is more than certain federal employment taxes the Eligible Employer owes. That is, if for any calendar quarter the amount of the credit the Eligible Employer is entitled to exceeds the employer portion of the social security tax on all wages (or on all compensation for employers subject to RRTA) paid to all employees, then the excess is treated as an overpayment and refunded to the employer under sections 6402(a) and 6413(a) of the Code. Consistent with its treatment as an overpayment, the excess will be applied to offset any remaining tax liability on the employment tax return and the amount of any remaining excess will be reflected as an overpayment on the return. Like other overpayments of federal taxes, the overpayment will be subject to offset under section 6402(a) of the Code prior to being refunded to the employer.

Example: Eligible Employer pays $10,000 in qualified wages to Employee A in Q2 2020. The Employee Retention Credit available to the Eligible Employer for the qualified wages paid to Employee A is $5,000. This amount may be applied against the employer share of social security taxes that the Eligible Employer is liable for with respect to all employee wages paid in Q2 2020. Any excess over the employer’s share of social security taxes is treated as an overpayment and refunded to the Eligible Employer after offsetting other tax liabilities on the employment tax return and subject to any other offsets under section 6402(a) of the Code.

Against what employment taxes does the Employee Retention Credit apply?

The credit is allowed against the employer portion of social security taxes under section 3111(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), and the portion of taxes imposed on railroad employers under section 3221(a) of the Railroad Retirement Tax Act (RRTA) that corresponds to the social security taxes under section 3111(a) of the Code.

What is a “significant decline in gross receipts”?

A significant decline in gross receipts begins with the first quarter in which an employer’s gross receipts for a calendar quarter in 2020 are less than 50 percent of its gross receipts for the same calendar quarter in 2019. The significant decline in gross receipts ends with the first calendar quarter that follows the first calendar quarter for which the employer’s 2020 gross receipts for the quarter are greater than 80 percent of its gross receipts for the same calendar quarter during 2019.

Example: An employer’s gross receipts were $100,000, $190,000, and $230,000 in the first, second, and third calendar quarters of 2020, respectively. Its gross receipts were $210,000, $230,000, and $250,000 in the first, second, and third calendar quarters of 2019, respectively. Thus, the employer’s 2020 first, second, and third quarter gross receipts were approximately 48%, 83%, and 92% of its 2019 first, second, and third quarter gross receipts, respectively. Accordingly, the employer had a significant decline in gross receipts commencing on the first day of the first calendar quarter of 2020 (the calendar quarter in which gross receipts were less than 50% of the same quarter in 2019) and ending on the first day of the third calendar quarter of 2020 (the quarter following the quarter for which the gross receipts were more than 80% of the same quarter in 2019). Thus the employer is entitled to a retention credit with respect to the first and second calendar quarters.

When is the operation of a trade or business partially suspended for the purposes of the Employee Retention Credit?

The operation of a trade or business may be partially suspended if an appropriate governmental authority imposes restrictions upon the business operations by limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings (for commercial, social, religious, or other purposes) due to COVID-19 such that the operation can still continue to operate but not at its normal capacity.

Example: A state governor issues an executive order closing all restaurants, bars, and similar establishments in the state in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, the executive order allows those establishments to continue food or beverage sales to the public on a carry-out, drive-through, or delivery basis. This results in a partial suspension of the operations of the trade or business due to an order of an appropriate governmental authority with respect to any restaurants, bars, and similar establishments in the state that provided full sit-down service, a dining room, or other on-site eating facilities for customers prior to the executive order.

Who is an Eligible Employer?

Eligible Employers for the purposes of the Employee Retention Credit are those that carry on a trade or business during calendar year 2020, including a tax-exempt organization, that either:

  • Fully or partially suspends operation during any calendar quarter in 2020 due to orders from an appropriate governmental authority limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings (for commercial, social, religious, or other purposes) due to COVID-19; or
  • Experiences a significant decline in gross receipts during the calendar quarter.

Note: Governmental employers are not Eligible Employers for the Employee Retention Credit. Also, Self-employed individuals are not eligible for this credit for their self-employment services or earnings.

What is the Employee Retention Credit?

The Employee Retention Credit is a fully refundable tax credit for employers equal to 50 percent of qualified wages (including allocable qualified health plan expenses) that Eligible Employers pay their employees. This Employee Retention Credit applies to qualified wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. The maximum amount of qualified wages taken into account with respect to each employee for all calendar quarters is $10,000, so that the maximum credit for an Eligible Employer for qualified wages paid to any employee is $5,000.

Can Eligible Employers claim the Employee Retention Credit for qualified wages paid in March 2020?

Eligible Employers may claim the Employee Retention Credit for qualified wages that they pay after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. Therefore, an Eligible Employer may be able to claim the credit for qualified wages paid as early as March 13, 2020.

Is an Employer required to pay qualified wages to its employees under the CARES Act?

No. The CARES Act does not require employers to pay qualified wages. In addition, Eligible Employers may elect to not claim the credit for the Employee Retention Credit. (The FFCRA does require certain employers to pay sick or family leave wages to employees who are unable to work or telework due to a COVID-19 circumstance. These employers may be entitled to a refundable tax credit for those wages paid, although the employers may elect not to claim the credit.)

What are “qualified wages”?

Qualified wages are wages (as defined in section 3121(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”)) and compensation (as defined in section 3231(e) of the Code) paid by an Eligible Employer to employees after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. Qualified wages include the Eligible Employer’s qualified health plan expenses that are properly allocable to the wages.

The definition of qualified wages depends, in part, on the average number of full-time employees (as defined in section 4980H of the Code) employed by the Eligible Employer during 2019.

If the Eligible Employer averaged more than 100 full-time employees in 2019, qualified wages are the wages paid to an employee for time that the employee is not providing services due to either (1) a full or partial suspension of operations by order of a governmental authority due to COVID-19, or (2) a significant decline in gross receipts. For these employers, qualified wages taken into account for an employee may not exceed what the employee would have been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 30 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship.

If the Eligible Employer averaged 100 or fewer full-time employees in 2019, qualified wages are the wages paid to any employee during any period of economic hardship described in (1) and (2) above.

How is the maximum amount of the Employee Retention Credit available to Eligible Employers determined?

The credit equals 50 percent of the qualified wages (including qualified health plan expenses) that an Eligible Employer pays in a calendar quarter. The maximum amount of qualified wages taken into account with respect to each employee for all calendar quarters is $10,000, so that the maximum credit for qualified wages paid to any employee is $5,000.

Example 1: Eligible Employer pays $10,000 in qualified wages to Employee A in Q2 2020. The Employee Retention Credit available to the Eligible Employer for the qualified wages paid to Employee A is $5,000.

Example 2: Eligible Employer pays Employee B $8,000 in qualified wages in Q2 2020 and $8,000 in qualified wages in Q3 2020. The credit available to the Eligible Employer for the qualified wages paid to Employee B is equal to $4,000 in Q2 and $1,000 in Q3 due to the overall limit of $10,000 on qualified wages per employee for all calendar quarters.

Legal

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 employer, if you believe your employer is improperly refusing you expanded family and medical leave, you may call WHD at 1-866-4US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243) or visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd. Your call will be directed to the nearest WHD office for assistance to have your questions answered or to file a complaint. If your employer employs 50 or more employees, you also may file a lawsuit against your employer directly without contacting WHD. If you are a public sector employee, please see this answer.

What do I do if my employer, who I believe to be covered, refuses to provide me paid sick leave?

If you believe that your employer is covered and is improperly refusing you paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, the Department encourages you to raise and try to resolve your concerns with your employer. Regardless of whether you discuss your concerns with your employer, if you believe your employer is improperly refusing you paid sick leave, you may call 1-866-4US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243). WHD is responsible for administering and enforcing these provisions. If you have questions or concerns, you can contact WHD by phone or visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd. Your call will be directed to the nearest WHD office for assistance to have your questions answered or to file a complaint. In most cases, you can also file a lawsuit against your employer directly without contacting WHD. If you are a public sector employee, please see this answer.

Who is a covered employer that must provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA?

Generally, if you employ fewer than 500 employees you are a covered employer that must provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. For additional information on the 500 employee threshold, see here. Certain employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt from the Act’s requirements to provide certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. For additional information regarding this small business exemption, see here and here.

Certain public employers are also covered under the Act and must provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. For additional information regarding coverage of public employers, see here.

As an employer, how do I know if my business is under the 500-employee threshold and therefore must provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

You have fewer than 500 employees if, at the time your employee’s leave is to be taken, you employ fewer than 500 full-time and part-time employees within the United States, which includes any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any Territory or possession of the United States. In making this determination, you should include employees on leave; temporary employees who are jointly employed by you and another employer (regardless of whether the jointly-employed employees are maintained on only your or another employer’s payroll); and day laborers supplied by a temporary agency (regardless of whether you are the temporary agency or the client firm if there is a continuing employment relationship). Workers who are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rather than employees, are not considered employees for purposes of the 500-employee threshold.

Typically, a corporation (including its separate establishments or divisions) is considered to be a single employer and its employees must each be counted towards the 500-employee threshold. Where a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two corporations are separate employers unless they are joint employers under the FLSA with respect to certain employees. If two entities are found to be joint employers, all of their common employees must be counted in determining whether paid sick leave must be provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and expanded family and medical leave must be provided under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

In general, two or more entities are separate employers unless they meet the integrated employer test under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). If two entities are an integrated employer under the FMLA, then employees of all entities making up the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

If I am a private-sector employer and have 500 or more employees, do the Acts apply to me?

No. Private sector employers are only required to comply with the Acts if they have fewer than 500 employees.

If providing childcare-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 leave and expanded family and medical leave.

What records do I need to keep when my employee takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

Private sector employers that provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave required by the FFCRA are eligible for reimbursement of the costs of that leave through refundable tax credits.  If you intend to claim a tax credit under the FFCRA for your payment of the sick leave or expanded family and medical leave wages, you should retain appropriate documentation in your records. You should consult Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applicable forms, instructions, and information for the procedures that must be followed to claim a tax credit, including any needed substantiation to be retained to support the credit. You are not required to provide leave if materials sufficient to support the applicable tax credit have not been provided.

If one of your employees takes expanded family and medical leave to care for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19, you may also require your employee to provide you with any additional documentation in support of such leave, to the extent permitted under the certification rules for conventional FMLA leave requests. For example, this could include a notice that has been posted on a government, school, or day care website, or published in a newspaper, or an email from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider.

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 generally must continue to make any normal contributions to the cost of your health coverage. See WHD Fact Sheet 28A: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fact-sheets/28a-fmla-employee-protections.

If you do not return to work at the end of your expanded family and medical leave, check with your employer to determine whether you are eligible to keep your health coverage on the same terms (including contribution rates). If you are no longer eligible, you may be able to continue your coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA, which generally applies to employers with 20 or more employees, allows you and your family to continue the same group health coverage at group rates. Your share of that cost may be higher than what you were paying before but may be lower than what you would pay for private individual health insurance coverage. (If your employer has fewer than 20 employees, you may be eligible to continue your health insurance under State laws that are similar to COBRA. These laws are sometimes referred to as “mini COBRA” and vary from State to State.) Contact the Employee Benefits Security Administration at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/workers-and-families/changing-jobs-and-job-loss to learn about health and retirement benefit protections for dislocated workers. 

If you elect to take paid sick leave, your employer must continue your health coverage. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), an employer cannot establish a rule for eligibility or set any individual’s premium or contribution rate based on whether an individual is actively at work (including whether an individual is continuously employed), unless absence from work due to any health factor (such as being absent from work on sick leave) is treated, for purposes of the plan or health insurance coverage, as being actively at work.

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?

No. If you are eligible to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, as well as paid leave that is already provided by your employer, unless your employer agrees you must choose one type of leave to take. You may not simultaneously take both, unless your employer agrees to allow you to supplement the amount you receive from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, up to your normal earnings, with preexisting leave. For example, if you are receiving 2/3 of your normal earnings from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA and your employer permits, you may use your preexisting employer-provided paid leave to get the additional 1/3 of your normal earnings so that you receive your full normal earnings for each hour.

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 paid leave policy to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, up to the employee’s normal earnings. Note, however, that you are not entitled to a tax credit for any paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave that is not required to be paid or exceeds the limits set forth under Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. 

However, you are not required to permit an employee to use existing paid leave to supplement the amount your employee receives from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. Further, you may not claim, and will not receive tax credit, for such supplemental amounts.

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 paid leave policy to supplement or adjust the paid leave under the FFCRA.

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 owed to each employee. However, the employer may satisfy its obligations under both Acts by other means, provided they are consistent with its bargaining obligations and collective bargaining agreement.

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 or an emergency responder you are not required to pay such employee paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave on a case-by-case basis. And certain small businesses may exempt employees if the leave would jeopardize the company’s viability as a going concern. See here.

There is one difference regarding an employee’s eligibility for paid sick leave versus expanded family and medical leave. While your employee is eligible for paid sick leave regardless of length of employment, your employee must have been employed for 30 calendar days in order to qualify for expanded family and medical leave. For example, if your employee requests expanded family and medical leave on April 10, 2020, he or she must have been your employee since March 11, 2020.

If I am a small business with fewer than 50 employees, am I exempt from the requirements to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

A small business is exempt from certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements if providing an employee such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. This means a small business is exempt from mandated paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave requirements only if the:

  • employer employs fewer than 50 employees;
  • leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; and
  • an authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the three conditions described here is satisfied.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to reach the best solution for maintaining the business and ensuring employee safety.

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 business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that:

  • The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;  
  • The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or  
  • There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.
What is the effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

We have a few employees over 60 years old. Will we be discriminating based on age if we send these employees home?

The CDC has put out a risk assessment, which you can review here. It does not specifically identify age as a risk factor for coronavirus contraction or spread, though it is mentioned as a high-risk factor everywhere you turn.

We must place our personal feelings aside from what’s in the media (right or wrong), and look at what’s advised by the CDC when it comes to the legal ramifications. It does not appear that individuals above 60 years old are necessarily at a higher risk for spreading or contracting it.

We caution the employer against making age-based distinctions in connection with work-related policies, including policies related to who can and cannot report to the workplace. If you have a strong feeling about this, we suggest you speak with a labor law attorney in your state regarding your specific situation.

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 the same time, someone may have a fever, that does not have COVID-19.

The new guidance from the CDC does not mention any other screenings the employer can do beyond temperature checks. Additionally, employers should continue to monitor community-specific mitigation guidelines from the CDC, some of which specifically recommend screenings of employees and visitors in those communities.

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 identity of an employee confirmed to have a communicable disease. But employers have an obligation to provide employees with a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” under the General Duty Clause of OSHA.

Under the COVID-19 situation, an employer can check a temperature of an employee, though they must keep those results confidential.

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 via mobile and desktop, and uploading this poster here allows them to access it at any time and covers your required duties.

Where can I get the notice in other languages?
You are not required to post this notice in multiple languages, but the DOL is working to translate it into other languages.

Do I have to share this notice with laid-off employees?
No, the FFCRA requirements explained on this notice apply only to current employees.

Do I have to share this notice with new applicants?
No, the FFRCA requirements apply only to current employees. Employers are under no obligation to provide the notice of those requirements to prospective employees.

Do I have to give notice of the FFCRA requirements to new hires?
Yes, if you hire a job applicant, you must convey this notice to them, either by email, direct mail, or by posting this notice on the premises or on an employee information internal or external website.

If my state provides other posters, do I still have to post this notice?
Yes. The employer must comply with both federal and state law.

Which states have their own poster requirements?
Some will, though they are states are pending currently. California, New York, Colorado, and more, are definitely expecting these to be out soon.

I am a small business owner. Do I have to post this notice?
Yes. All employers covered by the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA (i.e., certain public sector employers and private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees) are required to post this notice.

How do I know if I have the most up-to-date notice? Will there be updates to this notice in the future?
The most recent version of this notice was issued on March 25, 2020. Check the Wage and Hour Division’s website or sign up for Key News Alerts to ensure that you remain current with all notice requirements at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd. Journey is also regularly looking for the most up to date posters.

Our employees must report to our office and then go to different locations. Do we have to post this notice at all of our different worksite locations?
The notice needs to be displayed in a conspicuous place where employees can see it. If they are able to see it at the main office, it is not necessary to display the notice at your different worksite locations. You can also email it, and all Journey clients will have these posters automatically uploaded in their Journey HUB. So if your employees have Journey HUB activated (it’s free for all clients), you are covered.

I am running out of wall space. Can I put the required notices in a binder that I put on the wall?
Negative. You cannot put federal notices in a binder. Employers must display federal notices in a conspicuous place where they are easily visible to all employees — the intended audience.

We have multiple break rooms. Do I have to post notices in each break room?
If all of your employees regularly visit one room, then you can post all required notices there. If not, then you can post the notices in each break room.

Money

Who is eligible for these 401(k) withdrawals?

To be eligible to make such a withdrawal, the individual participant, or his or her spouse or dependent, must have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or the individual suffered adverse financial consequences due to COVID-19 (e.g., furlough, reduction in hours, unable to work due to childcare, loss of business, etc.).

What about 401(k) Plan notices and 5500 filing requirements?

The legislation provides the Department of Labor with expanded authority to postpone certain deadlines under ERISA. At this time the Department of Labor has not issued guidance regarding the postponement of Notices or the Form 5500 filing deadline. However, we will be monitoring closely for any updates from the Department of Labor.

Have Required Minimum 401(k) Distributions been impacted?

Yes, The CARES Act waives RMDs for calendar year 2020. Your third party administrator should adopt a blanket amendment (when available) to reflect the suspension of 2020 RMDs.

How do we begin offering loan and distribution options to our 401(k) participants?

Attached is an election form that your company can use in the event you would like to add any of the above provisions to the Plan.

How soon can our 401(k) plan begin using the loan and distribution options?

The legislation does permit retirement plans to adopt these rules immediately, even if the plan does not currently allow for hardship distributions or loans. However, the Plan must be amended on or before the last day of the first Plan year beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2022 to be in compliance with the regulations.

Does the 401(k) plan sponsor need to verify whether an individual qualifies for a COVID-19 withdrawal or loan?

No, the plan sponsor may rely on participant’s certification for eligibility.

Can a 401(k) participant who receives a COVID-19 distribution repay the amount into a qualified retirement plan?

Yes, the participant has three years from the day after the distribution was received to repay the amount into a qualified retirement plan (or any other plan or IRA that can accept rollovers). The distribution will be taxable if it’s not repaid, but it can be repaid over a three-year period, unless otherwise elected.

What about outstanding 401(k) loans?

Subject to plan approval, scheduled participant loan repayments due from March 27, 2020 (the enactment of CARES) through December 31, 2020, may be delayed for up to one year for qualifying employees. Interest continues to accrue during the period and the plan can extend the term of the loan for up to one year.

Have 401(k) participant loan limits been adjusted?

Yes. If allowed by the plan, the loan limit can be increased to the lesser of $100,000 or 100% of the participant’s vested account balance. This only applies to loans made on or before September 23, 2020 (180 days following enactment of CARES) and is only for individuals that meet the same conditions outlined for the withdrawals noted above.

Are 401(k) plan participants impacted by COVID-19 able to access their retirement funds?

Yes, if allowed by the plan, certain participants may withdraw, penalty free, up to $100,000 of their vested account balance before December 31, 2020.

If I want to pay my employees more than they are entitled to receive for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, can I do so and claim a tax credit for the entire amount paid to them?

You may pay your employees in excess of FFCRA requirements. But you cannot claim, and will not receive tax credit for, those amounts in excess of the FFCRA’s statutory limits. 

May I collect unemployment insurance benefits for the time in which I receive pay for paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?

No. If your employer provides you paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance. However, each State has its own unique set of rules; and DOL recently clarified additional flexibility to the States (UIPL 20-10) to extend partial unemployment benefits to workers whose hours or pay have been reduced. Therefore, individuals should contact their State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

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 your paid leave is the average of your regular rate of pay for each week you have worked for your current employer.

If you are paid with commissions, tips, or piece rates, these amounts will be incorporated into the above calculation to the same extent they are included in the calculation of the regular rate under the FLSA.

You can also compute this amount for each employee by adding all compensation that is part of the regular rate over the above period and divide that sum by all hours actually worked in the same period.

As an employee, how much will I be paid while taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA?

It depends on your normal schedule as well as why you are taking leave.

If you are taking paid sick leave because you are unable to work or telework due to a need for leave because you (1) are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or (3) are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking medical diagnosis, you will receive for each applicable hour the greater of:

  • your regular rate of pay,
  • the federal minimum wage in effect under the FLSA, or
  • the applicable State or local minimum wage.

In these circumstances, you are entitled to a maximum of $511 per day, or $5,110 total over the entire paid sick leave period.

If you are taking paid sick leave because you are: (1) caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or an individual who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; (2) caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; or (3) experiencing any other substantially-similar condition that may arise, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, you are entitled to compensation at 2/3 of the greater of the amounts above.

Under these circumstances, you are subject to a maximum of $200 per day, or $2,000 over the entire two week period.

If you are taking expanded family and medical leave, you may take paid sick leave for the first ten days of that leave period, or you may substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave you have under your employer’s policy. For the following ten weeks, you will be paid for your leave at an amount no less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would be normally scheduled to work. The regular rate of pay used to calculate this amount must be at or above the federal minimum wage, or the applicable state or local minimum wage. However, you will not receive more than $200 per day or $12,000 for the twelve weeks that include both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave when you are on leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

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 require advance notice.

Exempt employees (those not entitled to overtime)

An exempt employee’s new salary must still be at or above the federal or state minimum for exempt employees. The federal minimum salary is $684 per week. Several states have weekly minimums that are higher than that (California and New York, for instance, are in the $1,000 per week range). The minimum may not be prorated based on hours worked.

Exempt employee reclassification

If an exempt employee has so little work to do that it does not make sense to pay them the federal or state minimum (or you simply cannot afford to), they can be reclassified as non-exempt and be paid by the hour instead. This must not be done on a very short-term basis. Although there are no hard and fast rules about how long you can reclassify someone, we would recommend not changing their classification unless you expect the slowdown to last for more than three weeks. Changing them back and forth frequently could cause you to lose their exemption retroactively and potentially owe years of overtime.

Employees with contracts or CBAs

If employees have employment contracts or are subject to collective bargaining agreements, you should consult with an attorney before any changes to pay are made.

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:

  1. Pay the employee, even though they didn’t work;
  2. Require they take the time off, unpaid;
  3. Require they use any available vacation time or PTO; or
  4. Allow your employee to choose between taking an unpaid day or using vacation or PTO.

All four options are compliant with federal law. If your office is required to close by health authorities and your state has a sick leave law, employees may be able to use accrued paid sick leave during the closure.

Exempt employees must be paid their regular salary unless the office is closed for an entire workweek and they do no work at all from home. You can, however, require them to use accrued vacation or PTO during a closure if you have a policy that indicates you will do so, or if this has been your past practice. When it comes to accrued vacation or PTO, it is safest to give employees advance notice if there are situations where you will use their accrued hours whether they like it or not.

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 to potentially save enough to avoid laying people off (or minimize it at least). Some ideas are:

  • Stop matching 401k
  • Cancel expensive company outings, and opt for a more low cost one. There’s nothing wrong with a basic BBQ. Sometimes those are even better!
  • Lower your benefit package. I.E. If you pay for 75% of your employees health insurance, how much will you save if you lower that to 40%? (We recommend you speak to your health broker to make sure you’re still in the ACA guidelines)
  • Pull back office spending
  • Pull back reimbursements

PPP Loans

I filed or approved a loan application based on the version of the PPP Interim Final Rule published on April 2, 2020. Do I need to take any action based on the updated guidance in these FAQs?

No. Borrowers and lenders may rely on the laws, rules, and guidance available at the time of the relevant application. However, borrowers whose previously submitted loan applications have not yet been processed may revise their applications based on clarifications reflected in these FAQs.

How should a borrower account for federal taxes when determining its payroll costs for purposes of the maximum loan amount, allowable uses of a PPP loan, and the amount of a loan that may be forgiven?

Under the Act, payroll costs are calculated on a gross basis without regard to (i.e., not including subtractions or additions based on) federal taxes imposed or withheld, such as the employee’s and employer’s share of Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and income taxes required to be withheld from employees. As a result, payroll costs are not reduced by taxes imposed on an employee and required to be withheld by the employer, but payroll costs do not include the employer’s share of payroll tax. For example, an employee who earned $4,000 per month in gross wages, from which $500 in federal taxes was withheld, would count as $4,000 in payroll costs. The employee would receive $3,500, and $500 would be paid to the federal government. However, the employer-side federal payroll taxes imposed on the $4,000 in wages are excluded from payroll costs under the statute.

Should payments that an eligible borrower made to an independent contractor or sole proprietor be included in calculations of the eligible borrower’s payroll costs?

No. Any amounts that an eligible borrower has paid to an independent contractor or sole proprietor should be excluded from the eligible business’s payroll costs. However, an independent contractor or sole proprietor will itself be eligible for a loan under the PPP, if it satisfies the applicable requirements.

What time period should borrowers use to determine their number of employees and payroll costs to calculate their maximum loan amounts?

In general, borrowers can calculate their aggregate payroll costs using data either from the previous 12 months or from calendar year 2019. For seasonal businesses, the applicant may use average monthly payroll for the period between February 15, 2019, or March 1, 2019, and June 30, 2019. An applicant that was not in business from February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019 may use the average monthly payroll costs for the period January 1, 2020 through February 29, 2020.

Borrowers may use their average employment over the same time periods to determine their number of employees, for the purposes of applying an employee-based size standard. Alternatively, borrowers may elect to use SBA’s usual calculation: the average number of employees per pay period in the 12 completed calendar months prior to the date of the loan application (or the average number of employees for each of the pay periods that the business has been operational, if it has not been operational for 12 months).

I need to request a loan to support my small business operations in light of current economic uncertainty. However, I pleaded guilty to a felony crime a very long time ago. Am I still eligible for the PPP?

Yes. Businesses are only ineligible if an owner of 20 percent or more of the equity of the applicant is presently incarcerated, on probation, on parole; subject to an indictment, criminal information, arraignment, or other means by which formal criminal charges are brought in any jurisdiction; or, within the last five years, for any felony, has been convicted; pleaded guilty; pleaded nolo contendere; been placed on pretrial diversion; or been placed on any form of parole or probation (including probation before judgment).

May lenders accept signatures from a single individual who is authorized to sign on behalf of the borrower?

Yes. However, the borrower should bear in mind that, as the Borrower Application Form indicates, only an authorized representative of the business seeking a loan may sign on behalf of the business. An individual’s signature as an “Authorized Representative of Applicant” is a representation to the lender and to the U.S. government that the signer is authorized to make the certifications, including with respect to the applicant and each owner of 20% or more of the applicant’s equity, contained in the Borrower Application Form. Lenders may rely on that representation and accept a single individual’s signature on that basis.

My small business is a seasonal business whose activity increases from April to June. Considering activity from that period would be a more accurate reflection of my business’s operations. However, my small business was not fully ramped up on February 15, 2020. Am I still eligible?

In evaluating a borrower’s eligibility, a lender may consider whether a seasonal borrower was in operation on February 15, 2020 or for an 8-week period between February 15, 2019 and June 30, 2019.

Are lenders permitted to use their own online portals and an electronic form that they create to collect the same information and certifications as in the Borrower Application Form, in order to complete implementation of their online portals?

Yes. Lenders may use their own online systems and a form they establish that asks for the same information (using the same language) as the Borrower Application Form. Lenders are still required to send the data to SBA using SBA’s interface.

What if an eligible borrower contracts with a third-party payer such as a payroll provider or a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) to process payroll and report payroll taxes?

SBA recognizes that eligible borrowers that use PEOs or similar payroll providers are required under some state registration laws to report wage and other data on the Employer Identification Number (EIN) of the PEO or other payroll provider. In these cases, payroll documentation provided by the payroll provider that indicates the amount of wages and payroll taxes reported to the IRS by the payroll provider for the borrower’s employees will be considered acceptable PPP loan payroll documentation. Relevant information from a Schedule R (Form 941), Allocation Schedule for Aggregate Form 941 Filers, attached to the PEO’s or other payroll provider’s Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, should be used if it is available; otherwise, the eligible borrower should obtain a statement from the payroll provider documenting the amount of wages and payroll taxes. In addition, employees of the eligible borrower will not be considered employees of the eligible borrower’s payroll provider or PEO.

Journey Payroll provides only Excel PPP reports, when I’ve heard other payroll companies provide PDF. PDF’s are easier to read, can I receive a PDF?

No, and we did this on purpose. Other payroll companies are producing the incorrect totals and are leaving businesses asking for less than they should. Our goal is to provide the correct data, and then provide the data in the correct format so your bank and/or CPA can help guide you to the total the benefits you the most.

Banks are ultimately the final decision on the loan, though we have noticed CPA’s providing fantastic navigation with this process as well. With Excel, they can maneuver the numbers the best way the see fit for their calculations.

Do PPP loans cover paid sick leave?

Yes. PPP loans covers payroll costs, including costs for employee vacation, parental, family, medical, and sick leave. However, the CARES Act excludes qualified sick and family leave wages for which a credit is allowed under sections 7001 and 7003 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116–127). Learn more about the Paid Sick Leave Refundable Credit here.

The CARES Act excludes from the definition of payroll costs any employee compensation in excess of an annual salary of $100,000. Does that exclusion apply to all employee benefits of monetary value?

No. The exclusion of compensation in excess of $100,000 annually applies only to cash compensation, not to non-cash benefits, including:

  • employer contributions to defined-benefit or defined-contribution retirement plans;
  • payment for the provision of employee benefits consisting of group health care coverage, including insurance premiums; and
  • payment of state and local taxes assessed on compensation of employees.
The affiliation rule based on ownership (13 C.F.R. 121.301(f)(1)) states that SBA will deem a minority shareholder in a business to control the business if the shareholder has the right to prevent a quorum or otherwise block action by the board of directors or shareholders. If a minority shareholder irrevocably gives up those rights, is it still considered to be an affiliate of the business?

No. If a minority shareholder in a business irrevocably waives or relinquishes any existing rights specified in 13 C.F.R. 121.301(f)(1), the minority shareholder would no longer be an affiliate of the business (assuming no other relationship that triggers the affiliation rules).

Are borrowers required to apply SBA’s affiliation rules under 13 C.F.R. 121.301(f)?

Yes. Borrowers must apply the affiliation rules set forth in SBA’s Interim Final Rule on Affiliation. A borrower must certify on the Borrower Application Form that the borrower is eligible to receive a PPP loan, and that certification means that the borrower is a small business concern as defined in section 3 of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 632), meets the applicable SBA employee-based or revenue-based size standard, or meets the tests in SBA’s alternative size standard, after applying the affiliation rules, if applicable. SBA’s existing affiliation exclusions apply to the PPP, including, for example the exclusions under 13 CFR 121.103(b)(2).

Are lenders required to make an independent determination regarding applicability of affiliation rules under 13 C.F.R. 121.301(f) to borrowers?

No. It is the responsibility of the borrower to determine which entities (if any) are its affiliates and determine the employee headcount of the borrower and its affiliates. Lenders are permitted to rely on borrowers’ certifications.

Does my business have to qualify as a small business concern (as defined in section 3 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632) in order to participate in the PPP?

No. In addition to small business concerns, a business is eligible for a PPP loan if the business has 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States, or the business meets the SBA employee-based size standards for the industry in which it operates (if applicable). Similarly, PPP loans are also available for qualifying tax-exempt nonprofit organizations described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), tax-exempt veterans organization described in section 501(c)(19) of the IRC, and Tribal business concerns described in section 31(b)(2)(C) of the Small Business Act that have 500 or fewer employees whose principal place of residence is in the United States, or meet the SBA employee-based size standards for the industry in which they operate.

Are small business concerns (as defined in section 3 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632) required to have 500 or fewer employees to be eligible borrowers in the PPP?

No. Small business concerns can be eligible borrowers even if they have more than 500 employees, as long as they satisfy the existing statutory and regulatory definition of a “small business concern” under section 3 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632. A business can qualify if it meets the SBA employee-based or revenue-based size standard corresponding to its primary industry. Go to www.sba.gov/size for the industry size standards.

Additionally, a business can qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program as a small business concern if it met both tests in SBA’s “alternative size standard” as of March 27, 2020: (1) maximum tangible net worth of the business is not more than $15 million; and (2) the average net income after Federal income taxes (excluding any carry-over losses) of the business for the two full fiscal years before the date of the application is not more than $5 million. A business that qualifies as a small business concern under section 3 of the Small Business Act, 15 U.S.C. 632, may truthfully attest to its eligibility for PPP loans on the Borrower Application Form, unless otherwise ineligible.

Paragraph 3.b.iii of the PPP Interim Final Rule states that lenders must “[c]onfirm the dollar amount of average monthly payroll costs for the preceding calendar year by reviewing the payroll documentation submitted with the borrower’s application.” Does that require the lender to replicate every borrower’s calculations?

No. Providing an accurate calculation of payroll costs is the responsibility of the borrower, and the borrower attests to the accuracy of those calculations on the Borrower Application Form. Lenders are expected to perform a good faith review, in a reasonable time, of the borrower’s calculations and supporting documents concerning average monthly payroll cost. For example, minimal review of calculations based on a payroll report by a recognized third-party payroll processor would be reasonable. In addition, as the PPP Interim Final Rule indicates, lenders may rely on borrower representations, including with respect to amounts required to be excluded from payroll costs.

If the lender identifies errors in the borrower’s calculation or material lack of substantiation in the borrower’s supporting documents, the lender should work with the borrower to remedy the issue.

Refusal to Work

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 policies.

You should be prepared for employees to express anxiety. We recommend you take each situation and employee on a case-by-case basis. Please have telecommuting options available, if possible. For the ones that are still in the office, have guidelines in place to protect them.

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 or physical harm to employees.

How do you know if the area is considered safe? Check the CDC’s Travelers Health Notices for the latest recommendations for where your employee is traveling.

Also, you will need to think about people with health conditions. If your employee is immunocompromised or has other disabilities, you will need to speak to a lawyer regarding your specific ADA requirements for your situation.

SHOULD YOU? This is up to you, but we believe you will want to ensure anyone traveling is comfortable, or you may push them to leave your organization. Pushing someone into a situation that may even be safe, causes anxiety, and potentially can hurt your company culture. Consider video conference calls for the next few weeks or months. We suggest Zoom meetings.

Safety

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 strain on our healthcare system due to the pandemic.

In any situation, an employee should not return to the workplace until they are symptom free for at lest 24 hours without mediation that would change their symptoms (i.e. Tylenol, Mucinex, etc) This makes it tough because the COVID-19 is contagious for much longer than 24 hours.

Common confusion could be an employee has allergies and asthma, and those are causing the same symptoms. The safest response would be to send your worker home to work remotely. If the worker can’t work from their home, then we recommend to send them home, with pay.

Providing paid leave is not possible for every business, but if it is, it will incentivize employees to help you keep your workplace safe.

The CDC has a risk assessment tool available here, which might be helpful.

If an employee is out of the office sick, can I ask them about their symptoms under the current circumstances?

In almost all cases, an employer should not ask about the employee’s symptoms. Under the circumstances, yes, there is a right way to approach this situation.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Ask your employee specifically about the symptoms of COVID-19. Do NOT ask a general question like, “What symptoms do you have?”. Make it clear you are asking only for this specific reason, to protect the workplace.

Here is Journey’s suggestion for communicating through this situation. “Thank you for staying home when you are sick. I first wanted to call and let you know we are wishing you good health and hope you get back on your feet as soon as possible. I am also calling to make sure I am doing my best in providing a safe workplace for everyone. I would like to know if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. Please know in addition to making sure I provide a safe workplace, any medical information you share is confidential, and I do not want or need anything else beyond this specific question regarding COVID-19. Are you experiencing a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing?”

That one piece is important because remember, this is confidential information. If the employee does reveal that they have symptoms of COVID-19, or that they have a confirmed case, you should see the CDC’s Interim Guidance to determine your next steps. Tables 1 and 2 will help you assess risk and determine what steps, if any, should be taken.

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 1 and 2 in the CDC’s Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management.

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 able to eliminate the risk completely, though here are popular ideas:

  • Place glass/plastic guard in between workers and customers
  • Minimize clients coming into the office
  • Workers that can work remotely, should
  • Communicate with your employees to stay home when they have symptoms
  • Have hand sanitizer in every office, at every location a person can be
  • Ask your team to stop hand shaking and high five
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 employees may be entitled to extra pay if you’re in a state with reporting time pay, but this cost will be well worth it to maintain the safety of the workplace. First, you want to make sure everyone is safe. Second, if your entire team comes down with COVID-19 at the same time, it will disrupt your operations.

Work from Home

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 expenses while not utilizing your office fully.
  • Do you offer reimbursement for internet usage for remote workers? You may be required to, though if you’re not, you can advise your workers to make sure they write off that expense on their own personal taxes.
  • Be prepared with your communication plans. Have the right resources, such as ZOOM meetings, set up, and ready to go. Create a schedule for your workers to check-in if needed.
  • Ensure anyone working at home has the proper security in place. If they’re logging into a secure system, do you have two-factor authentication set up?
  • Have everyone set up paperless for their Payroll and HR needs. Every employee can be on direct deposit or pay card, as well as have online access to all needed HR and Payroll documents with Journey’s HUB.
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 contact with their manager or subordinates, and office expenses.

For example, your policy might say that they must meet all deadlines and maintain client contacts per usual, that employees are available by phone, zoom, and messaging app during their regular in-office hours, and that they check in with their manager at the close of each workday to report what they have accomplished. Be sure to let employees know whom to contact if they run into technical difficulties at home.

You should consider whether employees will incur reasonable and necessary expenses while working from home. Some states mandate reimbursement for these kinds of expenses, but it’s a good practice to cover such costs even if it’s not required by law. Meaning: if they don’t have a desk at home, and they need it for work… maybe you should buy them a desk?

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 business must be able to support the justification for allowing certain groups to telecommute, and not others.

Work Status

Do I qualify for leave for a COVID-19 related reason even if I have already used some or all of my leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

If you are an eligible employee, you are entitled to paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act regardless of how much leave you have taken under the FMLA.

However, if your employer was covered by the FMLA prior to April 1, 2020, your eligibility for expanded family and medical leave depends on how much leave you have already taken during the 12-month period that your employer uses for FMLA leave. You may take a total of 12 workweeks for FMLA or expanded family and medical leave reasons during a 12-month period. If you have taken some, but not all, 12 workweeks of your leave under FMLA during the current 12-month period determined by your employer, you may take the remaining portion of leave available. If you have already taken 12 workweeks of FMLA leave during this 12-month period, you may not take additional expanded family and medical leave. 

For example, assume you are eligible for preexisting FMLA leave and took two weeks of such leave in January 2020 to undergo and recover from a surgical procedure. You therefore have 10 weeks of FMLA leave remaining. Because expanded family and medical leave is a type of FMLA leave, you would be entitled to take up to 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave, rather than 12 weeks. And any expanded family and medical leave you take would count against your entitlement to preexisting FMLA leave.

If your employer only becomes covered under the FMLA on April 1, 2020, this analysis does not apply.

May I take my paid sick leave intermittently while working at my usual worksite (as opposed to teleworking)?

It depends on why you are taking paid sick leave and whether your employer agrees. Unless you are teleworking, paid sick leave for qualifying reasons related to COVID-19 must be taken in full-day increments. It cannot be taken intermittently if the leave is being taken because:

  • You are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • You are caring for an individual who either is subject to a 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; or
  • You are experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Unless you are teleworking, once you begin taking paid sick leave for one or more of these qualifying reasons, you must continue to take paid sick leave each day until you either (1) use the full amount of paid sick leave or (2) no longer have a qualifying reason for taking paid sick leave. This limit is imposed because if you are sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, or caring for an individual who is sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, the intent of FFCRA is to provide such paid sick leave as necessary to keep you from spreading the virus to others. 

If you no longer have a qualifying reason for taking paid sick leave before you exhaust your paid sick leave, you may take any remaining paid sick leave at a later time, until December 31, 2020, if another qualifying reason occurs.

In contrast, if you and your employer agree, you may take paid sick leave intermittently if you are taking paid sick leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons. For example, if your child is at home because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, you may take paid sick leave on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to care for your child, but work at your normal worksite on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve maximum flexibility. Therefore, if employers and employees agree to intermittent leave on less than a full work day for employees taking paid sick leave to care for their child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19-related reasons, the Department is supportive of such voluntary arrangements.

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 child is at home because your child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, for the duration of your leave.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve flexibility. Therefore, if employers and employees agree to intermittent leave on a day-by-day basis, the Department supports such voluntary arrangements.

If my employer closed my worksite before April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I still get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?  

No. If, prior to the FFCRA’s effective date, your employer sent you home and stops paying you because it does not have work for you to do, 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 because it is required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. 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.

It should be noted, however, that if your employer is paying you pursuant to a paid leave policy or State or local requirements, you are not eligible for unemployment insurance.

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 because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State or local directive. 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.

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 questions about your eligibility. For additional information, please refer to https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/service-locator.aspx.

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 or because it was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State, or local directive. 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. If your employer reopens and you resume work, you would then be eligible for paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave as warranted.

If my employer reduces my scheduled work hours, can I use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that I am no longer scheduled to work? 

No. If your employer reduces your work hours because it does not have work for you to perform, you may not use paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for the hours that you are no longer scheduled to work. This is because you are not prevented from working those hours due to a COVID-19 qualifying reason, even if your reduction in hours was somehow related to COVID-19.

You may, however, take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working your full schedule. If you do, the amount of leave to which you are entitled is computed based on your work schedule before it was reduced (see here).

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 upon return from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. Thus, your employer is prohibited from firing, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against you because you take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. Nor can your employer fire, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against you because you filed any type of complaint or proceeding relating to these Acts, or have or intend to testify in any such proceeding.

However, you are not protected from employment actions, such as layoffs, that would have affected you regardless of whether you took leave. This means your employer can lay you off for legitimate business reasons, such as the closure of your worksite. Your employer must be able to demonstrate that you would have been laid off even if you had not taken leave.

Your employer may also refuse to return you to work in your same position if you are a highly compensated “key” employee as defined under the FMLA, or if your employer has fewer than 25 employees, and you took leave to care for your own son or daughter whose school or place of care was closed, or whose child care provider was unavailable, and all four of the following hardship conditions exist: 

  • your position no longer exists due to economic or operating conditions that affect employment and due to COVID-19 related reasons during the period of your leave;
  • your employer made reasonable efforts to restore you to the same or an equivalent position;
  • your employer makes reasonable efforts to contact you if an equivalent position becomes available; and
  • your employer continues to make reasonable efforts to contact you for one year beginning either on the date the leave related to COVID-19 reasons concludes or the date 12 weeks after your leave began, whichever is earlier.
May I take my paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave intermittently while teleworking?

Yes, if your employer allows it and if you are unable to telework your normal schedule of hours due to one of the qualifying reasons in the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. In that situation, you and your employer may agree that you may take paid sick leave intermittently while teleworking. Similarly, if you are prevented from teleworking your normal schedule of hours because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, you and your employer may agree that you can take expanded family medical leave intermittently while teleworking.

You may take intermittent leave in any increment, provided that you and your employer agree. For example, if you agree on a 90-minute increment, you could telework from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, take leave from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM, and then return to teleworking.

The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to achieve flexibility and meet mutual needs, and the Department is supportive of such voluntary arrangements that combine telework and intermittent leave.

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 leave for a serious medical condition, as long as the total time taken does not exceed 12 workweeks in the 12-month period. Please note that expanded family and medical leave is available only until December 31, 2020; after that, you may only take FMLA leave.

For example, assume you take four weeks of Expanded Family and Medical Leave in April 2020 to care for your child whose school is closed due to a COVID-19 related reason. These four weeks count against your entitlement to 12 weeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period. If you are eligible for preexisting FMLA leave and need to take such leave in August 2020 because you need surgery, you would be entitled to take up to eight weeks of FMLA leave.

However, you are entitled to paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act regardless of how much leave you have taken under the FMLA. Paid sick leave is not a form of FMLA leave and therefore does not count toward the 12 workweeks in the 12-month period cap. But please note that if you take paid sick leave concurrently with the first two weeks of expanded family and medical leave, which may otherwise be unpaid, then those two weeks do count towards the 12 workweeks in the 12-month period.

If I take paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, does that count against other types of paid sick leave to which I am entitled under State or local law, or my employer’s policy?

No. Paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is in addition to other leave provided under Federal, State, or local law; an applicable collective bargaining agreement; or your employer’s existing company policy.

May I use paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave together for any COVID-19 related reasons?

No. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act applies only when you are on leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. However, you can take paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act for numerous other reasons.

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 week will affect the amount of pay the employee is eligible to receive.

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 week affects the amount of pay the employee is eligible to receive.

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 whether the employer has fewer than 500 employees for purposes of providing expanded family and medical leave and paid sick leave. See here for more information.

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 work, including that the days you are on paid sick leave count towards completion of the waiting period. If, under the terms of the plan, an individual can elect coverage that becomes effective after completing the waiting period, the health coverage must take effect once the waiting period is complete. 

If my employer closes my worksite while I am on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, what happens?

If your employer closes while you are on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, your employer must pay for any paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave you used before the employer closed. As of the date your employer closes your worksite, you are no longer entitled to 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 because the employer was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State or local directive. 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.

If I am or become unable to telework, am I entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

If your employer permits teleworking—for example, allows you to perform certain tasks or work a certain number of hours from home or at a location other than your normal workplace—and you are unable to perform those tasks or work the required hours because of one of the qualifying reasons for paid sick leave, then you are entitled to take paid sick leave. 

Similarly, if you are unable to perform those teleworking tasks or work the required teleworking hours because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, then you are entitled to take expanded family and medical leave. Of course, to the extent you are able to telework while caring for your child, paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is not available.

What does it mean to be unable to work, including telework for COVID-19 related reasons?

You are unable to work if your employer has work for you and one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA prevents you from being able to perform that work, either under normal circumstances at your normal worksite or by means of telework.

If you and your employer agree that you will work your normal number of hours, but outside of your normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then you are able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working that schedule.

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.

What documents do I need to give my employer to get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

You must provide to your employer documentation in support of your paid sick leave as specified in applicable IRS forms, instructions, and information. 

Your employer may also require you to provide additional in support of your expanded family and medical leave taken to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19-related reasons. For example, this may include a notice of closure or unavailability from your child’s school, place of care, or child care provider, including a notice that may have been posted on a government, school, or day care website, published in a newspaper, or emailed to you from an employee or official of the school, place of care, or child care provider. Your employer must retain this notice or documentation in support of expanded family and medical leave, including while you may be taking unpaid leave that runs concurrently with paid sick leave if taken for the same reason.

Please also note that all existing certification requirements under the FMLA remain in effect if you are taking leave for one of the existing qualifying reasons under the FMLA. For example, if you are taking leave beyond the two weeks of emergency paid sick leave because your medical condition for COVID-19-related reasons rises to the level of a serious health condition, you must continue to provide medical certifications under the FMLA if required by your employer.

How do I know whether I have “been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer” for purposes of expanded family and medical leave?

You are considered to have been employed by your employer for at least 30 calendar days if your employer had you on its payroll for the 30 calendar days immediately prior to the day your leave would begin. For example, if you want to take leave on April 1, 2020, you would need to have been on your employer’s payroll as of March 2, 2020.

If you have been working for a company as a temporary employee, and the company subsequently hires you on a full-time basis, you may count any days you previously worked as a temporary employee toward this 30-day eligibility period.

Are the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements retroactive?

No.

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, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Can my employer deny me paid sick leave if my employer gave me paid leave for a reason identified in the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act prior to the Act going into effect?

No. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act imposes a new leave requirement on employers that is effective beginning on April 1, 2020.

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 related reasons. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period thus covers the first ten workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act unless you elect to use existing vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first ten workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent ten weeks under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act.

Please note that you can only receive the additional ten weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

May I take 80 hours of paid sick leave for my self-quarantine and then another amount of paid sick leave for another reason provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act?

No. You may take up to two weeks—or ten days—(80 hours for a full-time employee, or for a part-time employee, the number of hours equal to the average number of hours that the employee works over a typical two-week period) of paid sick leave for any combination of qualifying reasons. However, the total number of hours for which you receive paid sick leave is capped at 80 hours under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. 

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 hours over a two-week period. For example, an employee who is scheduled to work 50 hours a week may take 50 hours of paid sick leave in the first week and 30 hours of paid sick leave in the second week. In any event, the total number of hours paid under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is capped at 80.

If the employee’s schedule varies from week to week, please see here, because the calculation of hours for a full-time employee with a varying schedule is the same as that for a part-time employee.

Please keep in mind the daily and aggregate caps placed on any pay for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave as described in the answer to Question 7.

Please note that pay does not need to include a premium for overtime hours under either the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

How do I count hours worked by a part-time employee for purposes of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

A part-time employee is entitled to leave for his or her average number of work hours in a two-week period. Therefore, you calculate hours of leave based on the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work. If the normal hours scheduled are unknown, or if the part-time employee’s schedule varies, you may use a six-month average to calculate the average daily hours. Such a part-time employee may take paid sick leave for this number of hours per day for up to a two-week period, and may take expanded family and medical leave for the same number of hours per day up to ten weeks after that.

If this calculation cannot be made because the employee has not been employed for at least six months, use the number of hours that you and your employee agreed that the employee would work upon hiring. And if there is no such agreement, you may calculate the appropriate number of hours of leave based on the average hours per day the employee was scheduled to work over the entire term of his or her employment.

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.

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 to do. If you’re in a state with a sick leave law, that will apply if the employee is sick, a family member is sick, or (in many states) when an employee is told to stay home by a public health authority.

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. The goal is to reduce scheduled hours or requires a period of unpaid leave. The thought process is that having all employees incur a bit of hardship is better than some losing their jobs completely. For example, a company may reduce hours to 20 per week for a period of time as a cost-saving measure, or they may place everyone on a two-week unpaid leave. This is typically not considered termination; however, you may still need to provide certain notices to employees about the change in the relationship, and they would likely still be eligible for unemployment.

If the entire company won’t be furloughed, but only certain employees, it is important to be able to show that staff selection is not being done for a discriminatory reason. You’ll want to document the non-discriminatory business reasons that support the decision to furlough certain employees and not others, such as those that perform essential services.

Layoff

A layoff involves terminating employment during a period when no work is available. This may be temporary or permanent. If you close down completely, but you intend to reopen in the relatively near future or have an expected reopening date—at which time you will rehire an employee, or all employees—this would be considered a temporary layoff. Temporary layoffs are appropriate for relatively short-term slowdowns or closures. A layoff is generally considered permanent if there are no plans to rehire the employee or employees because the slowdown or closure is expected to be lengthy or permanent.

Pay for Exempt Employees (those not entitled to overtime)

Exempt employees do not have to be paid if they do no work at all for an entire workweek. However, if work is not available for a partial week for an exempt employee, they must be paid their full salary for that week, regardless of the fact that they have done less work. If the point is to save money (and it usually is), it’s best to ensure that the layoff covers the company’s established 7-day workweek for exempt employees. Make it very clear to exempt employees that they should do absolutely no work during any week you’re shut down. If exempt employees do any work during that time, they will need to be paid their normal weekly salary.

Pay for Non-Exempt Employees (those entitled to overtime)

Non-exempt employees only need to be paid for actual hours worked, so single day or partial-week furloughs can be applied to them without worrying about pay implications.

We recommend that you engage in open communication with the affected employees before and during the furlough or temporary layoff period.

If we close temporarily, will employees be able to file for unemployment insurance?

MAYBE: Employees may be able to file for unemployment insurance, depending on how long you will be closed for. If you will be closed more than 3 weeks, absolutely. If you’re closed for less than 3 weeks, it depends.

Traditionally, employees need to wait 1-3 weeks until they can claim unemployment, though every state is different, and some states like California and New York are waiving this waiting period completely during this time.

To add, the COVID-19 situation is still unfolding, and the job search is difficult. Several states, such as California and Ohio have waived the requirements to be actively searching for a new job at this time.