The Families First Coronavirus Response Act mandates that private employers with 500 or fewer employees (with exceptions for certain small employers as well as health care providers and emergency responders) and some public sector employers must provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency Family and Medical Leave Act leave for specific COVID-related reasons. The Act,

I don’t like it when the federal agencies don’t play fair. I previously blogged about the EEOC’s sneaky change in its position on whether sexual orientation discrimination is covered by Title VII (it revised its guidance without any kind of announcement. It was just suddenly… the exact opposite). And now, the Department of Labor has pulled the same trick with regard to its guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act!

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The U.S. Department of Labor updated its  Families First Coronavirus Response  Act: Questions and Answers on Saturday, March 28, 2020 to provide guidance on a number of key issues, including the exemptions to the paid leave mandates under the FFCRA for small businesses, healthcare providers, and emergency responders.

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On March 26, 2020, the Department of Labor updated its Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers to provide more guidance about the paid sick leave and expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The DOL addressed a number of open issues of significant interest to employers. Additionally, as we mentioned in our March 26, 2020 E-lert, the DOL released the mandatory notice, and it has now followed up with guidance on its posting and distribution.

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The Department of Labor has issued several resources on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act: a fact sheet for employers, a fact sheet for employees and a Questions and Answers resource. In particular, the last of these resources answers many, although certainly not all, of the multitude of questions that have arisen in the wake of the enactment of the FFCRA and its paid sick leave and expanded Family and Medical Leave Act requirements, which we discussed in our March 19, 2020 E-Lert.

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As Maryland businesses know, Governor Hogan signed an Executive Order closing all non-essential businesses to the general public at 5 p.m. Monday, March 23, 2020. His office has since provided three separate Interpretive Guidance memos, listing the types of businesses deemed essential. The latest Guidance also provides further information regarding what actions non-essential businesses can continue to engage in, as well as how to determine whether a business is essential or not.

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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to worsen, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has declared it a “direct threat,” thereby loosening the restrictions on employee medical testing and inquiries under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It has updated its 2009 pandemic guidance and its “What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and COVID-19” resource accordingly.

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On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law. This law makes sweeping changes to an employer’s legal obligations: (1) imposing a paid sick and safe leave (“PSL”) mandate for COVID-19-related reasons on most employers with fewer than 500 employees; (2) temporarily expanding coverage for school and child care closures associated with COVID-19 and imposing a paid leave requirement under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) on these same employers; (3) encouraging states to extend unemployment benefits for reasons associated with COVID-19; and (4) giving a payroll tax credit to employers for the paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave mandates.

While we had previously provided a summary of the Act as it was originally passed by the House, and then another on the House’s substantive “technical amendments” to the Act, we are now summarizing the final law here.


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