Common Covid-19 Questions
- Question #1: What are my rights if I get sick or need to care for a family member for an illness, disability or medical condition not arising from Covid-10? Answer:Generally, California employees who are sick can take accrued paid sick days. How many sick days are available depends on employer policies, although California requires employers to provide at least three days of paid sick leave per year after 90 days of work, and some cities, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, require even more. Employees who work for larger employers may have more rights and may be eligible for up to twelve weeks of unpaid time off.
For people who work for an employer with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of their worksite, California law requires employers to provide 12-weeks of job-protected leave each year under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) for a “serious health condition” of the employee or a member of their family. To qualify for this leave, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least a one-year total during their lifetime and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last calendar year.
- Question #2: What are my rights if I get sick or need to care for a family member for an illness, disability or medical condition arising from Covid-19? Answer:Employee rights to paid sick leave and medical leave have been expanded by new legislation in connection with Covid-19, most notably the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). The FFCRA generally requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to Covid-19.
- Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined or experiencing Covid-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine or to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to Covid-19.
- Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined or experiencing Covid-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
The FFCRA generally requires covered employers to provide:
- Question #3: What is a qualifying reason for leave under the FFCRA? Answer:Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work or telework due to a need for leave because the employee:
- Is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to Covid-19;
- Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to Covid-10;
- Is experiencing Covid-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- Is caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to Covid-19 or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine in relation to Covid-19;
- Is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to Covid-19; and
- Is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition.
- Question #4: Which employers are required to provide these expanded leaves mandated by the FFCRA? Answer:The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
- Question #5: Which employees are eligible for the expanded paid sick leave and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA? Answer:All employees of covered employers are eligible for 80 hours of paid sick leave for specified reasons related to Covid-19. Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to Covid-19.
- Question #6: When does the FFCRA expire? Answer:The FFCRA is currently set to expire on December 31, 2020.
- Question #7: Do I need to provide notice of my leave before taking leave related to Covid-19? Answer:Where leave is foreseeable, an employee should provide notice of leave to the employer as is practicable. After the first workday of paid sick time, an employer may require employees to follow reasonable procedure sin order to continue receiving paid sick time, such as providing a positive Covid-19 test result.
- Question #8: What happens if an employer retaliates against me for requesting leave or another accommodation? Answer:Employers who retaliate against employees for requesting paid sick leave or another potentially available leave to care for themselves or another that is required by law risk liability for wrongful termination or other retaliation lawsuits. This is because discrimination or retaliation against a person with a disability, including disciplining them, treating them differently than other works, or terminating them is prohibited under California law. This protection extends to people who the employer assumes or “regards” as a person with a disability. While employers can require medical documentation of a disability and the employee’s limitations, they cannot force employees to disclose a specific health condition or disability. If you suspect that you or a loved one was discriminated against, retaliated against, or terminated merely for requesting an accommodation or leave, you may want to contact a lawyer.
- Question #9: Do my rights to paid sick leave, medical leave, and other accommodations depend on whether I am paid hourly, on salary, or I am an independent contractor? Answer:Generally, your entitlement to leave will not be tied to how you are paid, although they may be tied to how long you have been employed. For instance, an employee who has worked for less than 30 days or, in other instances, 90 days, may not be entitled to paid sick leave. Moreover, leave under the FMAL or CFRA may be withheld for employees who did not work for more than 1,250 hours in the last calendar year for the employer. In addition, an independent contractor may be entitled to leave in the same manner if they are misclassified as independent contractors. If you believe you were misclassified as an independent contractor, you may want to contact a lawyer.
- Question #10: What if I’m vulnerable to Covid-19? Answer:The law requires employers to consider offering work from home or medical leaves of absence as a reasonable accommodation under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) for people who qualify as having a disability under the law. Employees with compromised immune systems or who are medically at risk may want to assert their rights and request accommodations to remain safe. Whether the accommodations must be granted is a case-by-case analysis. However, retaliation by an employer against an employee requesting an accommodation for what he or she reasonably believes to be a disability can be illegal.