CORONAVIRUS UPDATES DU JOUR: SENATE PASSES AND PRESIDENT SIGNS FMLA EXPANSION AND PAID SICK LEAVE; STATE PAID LEAVE LAWS – WHEN & HOW DO THEY APPLY?

Posted On March 19, 2020  

by Marti Cardi, Esq. - Vice President, Product Compliance

March 19, 2020

 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

In the past two days we have reported on the progress of House of Representatives Bill 6201 proposing expansions of the Family and Medical Leave Act and new paid sick leave requirements here and the House amendments here (or if you widely bookmarked Matrix-Radar, just scroll down!).  On March 18 that bill passed the U.S. Senate and was signed into law by President Trump.  The final version was unchanged from H.R. 6201, so our summary in those two blog posts is still accurate – read them both, and we will follow up soon with more details. In the meantime, remember it goes into effect April 2, 2020; and still impacts only employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Moving on:

State Paid Family and Medical/Disability Laws

Now let’s take a look at how existing or recently-modified state leave laws (paid and unpaid) relate to COVID-19 situations.  NOTE!  This is a very fluid and fast changing situation.  This information is accurate as of press time. We will update this post as needed for new developments.

This overview relates primarily to state paid family and medical or disability benefits and leave laws.  Many states also have paid sick and safe leave laws, and a good number of those cover employee absences due to the closure of schools and day care facilities. In addition, some situations where an employee is ordered by the employer to stay home, or experiences reduced hours or a business closure, may be covered by state unemployment insurance. These are mentioned below only if the state COVID-19 information website specifically addresses the issue. 

A Better Balance is a great resource for state and municipal/county paid sick leave laws.  Check out their website for a comprehensive chart.

California.  The Golden State has taken several steps to provide or clarify state benefits coverage to situations relating to COVID-19:

  • Disability and employee quarantine: An employee may qualify for disability insurance due to their own
    illness and/or quarantine. “Disability” is defined by California statute to include inability to work due to
    a nonwork illness or injury and also “because of a written order from a state or local health officer to an
    individual infected with, or suspected of being infected with, a communicable disease.”
    CA Unemp Ins Code § 2626 (2017).

The Employment Development Department is waiving the one-week elimination period for DI claims for individuals who are unemployed and disabled as a result of COVID-19.  See Governor’s Executive Order. So far this does not appear to apply to voluntary plans. EDD still requires a medical certification signed by a treating physician or a practitioner that includes a diagnosis and ICD-10 code, or if no diagnosis has been obtained, a statement of symptoms; the start date of the condition; its probable duration; and the treating physician’s or practitioner’s license number or facility information. This requirement can also be met by a written order from a state or local health officer that is specific to the employee.

  • Paid Family Leave: Employees missing work to care for an ill or quarantined family member with COVID-19
    may qualify for paid family leave (presently up to 6 weeks, increasing to 8 weeks on July 1, 2020).
    “Family member” is defined as a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling,
    spouse, or registered domestic partner. EDD still requires a medical certification for the family member
    from a treating physician or a practitioner that includes a diagnosis and ICD-10 code, or if no diagnosis
    has been obtained, a statement with the same information listed above for disabilities. This requirement
    can also be met by a written order from a state or local health officer that is specific to the family member’s
    situation.
  • School Closures: If an employee has to miss work because their child’s school is closed, they may be eligible
    for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Eligibility considerations include if the employee has no other
    care options and if they are unable to continue working normal hours remotely.
  • Work closures or reduced hours: Again, unemployment benefits may be available to employees if the
    employer closes its business or reduces work hours. In these cases the employee is not required to actively
    look for other employment but must be ready and available to work throughout the period of
    unemployment or reduced schedule.

California EDD COVID-19 website:  https://edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm

New Jersey:

  • Disability and employee quarantine: The state’s Temporary Disability Insurance will cover an individual who
    has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms and is unable to work.  The employee must first exhaust
    their leave available under New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave law, which provides up to 40 hours of paid sick time.
    The employee must still provide the usual medical support from a health care provider, including diagnosis
    and duration the employee is expected to be off work. New Jersey TDI does not cover employee quarantine
    situations.
  • Paid Family Leave: New Jersey Family Leave Insurance (FLI) will apply to employee time off needed to care
    for a family member with a serious health condition. There are no provisions relating to caring for a family
    member due to a COVID-19-related quarantine.
  • School closures: Employee absences due to school or day care closures are not covered under New Jersey FLI.
    New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave law provides paid sick time (up to 40 hours) that employees can use when their
    children’s school or child care facility is closed due to an epidemic or public health emergency.
  • Work closures or reduced hours: Unemployment benefits may be available to employees if the employer
    closes its business or reduces work hours.

New Jersey COVID-19 website:  https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/earnedsick/covid.shtml

New York

NOTE:  On March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed emergency legislation guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Here are the specifics: 

  • Employers are required to provide sick leave for absences due to a COVID-19-related quarantine ordered
    by the state or an authorized state or local department or board of health, according to the employer’s
    size and net income:

    • Employers with 10 or fewer employees: unpaid leave for the duration of the quarantine.
    • Employers with 10 or fewer employees and net income greater than $1 million: 5 days of paid leave,
      plus unpaid leave for the duration of the quarantine.
    • Employers with 11-99 employees: 5 days of paid leave, plus unpaid leave for the duration of the
      quarantine.
    • Employers with 100 or more employees: 14 days of paid leave (no reference to unpaid leave for
      the duration of a quarantine).
  • The employee can apply for New York disability and paid family leave (PFL) benefits after using the mandated
    paid leave. The waiting period is waived for employees of employers with 10 or fewer employees and $1 million
    or less in net income.
  • This paid sick leave must be provided without loss of an employee’s other accrued sick leave.
  • The definition of “disability” for purposes of disability benefits is expanded to include the inability of the
    employee to perform the duties of his/her position or other offered position due to an order of quarantine
    relating to COVID-19, after exhaustion of the paid sick leave (PSL) offered by the employer (presumably
    including company-offered PSL and the newly mandated PSL).
  • Paid family leave is expanded to include leave taken by an employee subject to an order of quarantine relating
    to COVID-19 applicable to the employee or to the employee’s minor dependent child.
  • Benefits available under the disability law and paid family leave run concurrently, with the PFL benefits
    being primary.
  • The amount of benefits available for COVID-19-related disability is a maximum of $2,043.92 per week, and
    for COVID-19-related PFL is a maximum of $840.70 per week. After application of PFL benefits, the amount
    of disability benefits is capped so that the employee does not receive in total more than the employee’s
    average weekly wage.
  • If the federal government provides sick leave and/or employee benefits for employees related to COVID-19,
    then the federal benefits apply first and the state benefits described above serve as a top-off up to the
    limits provide by the New York bill.
  • The employee must be restored to his/her position held prior to the quarantine (so, same position, not
    an equivalent position
    ).

Rhode Island:

  • Disability and employee quarantine: Employee COVID-19-related illnesses may be covered by Rhode Island
    Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI).  The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) will waive
    the 7-day minimum claim duration so employees can get coverage from their first day of COVID-19 illness.

By its terms TDI does not to apply to an employee under quarantine but not actually diagnosed with COVID-19 or exhibiting symptoms. However, the Rhode Island COVID-19 Workplace Fact Sheet provides this statement:  “For individuals under quarantine, DLT will waive the required medical certification, and instead will allow them to temporary qualify via self-attestation that they were under quarantine due to COVID-19.”  This appears intended only to waive the medical certification requirement if someone is quarantined, not to create new TDI coverage.

  • Paid Family Leave: Rhode Island Temporary Caregivers Insurance (TCI) provides 4 weeks of time off to care
    for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, or grandparent).
    There is no TCI coverage because a family member is in quarantine.
  • School closures: Employee absences due to school or day care closures are not covered under Rhode Island TCI.
  • Work closures or reduced hours: If a workplace closes or an employee is directed by the employer to remain
    home, the employee may be eligible for unemployment insurance.

Rhode Island COVID-19 Workplace Fact Sheet:  www.dlt.ri.gov/pdfs/COVID-19 Workplace Fact Sheet.pdf

Washington:

  • Disability and employee quarantine: Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave law covers an employee’s
    absence from work due to a serious health condition.  Employees must still provide medical certification of the
    employee’s condition, but this can be obtained via email and the Employment Security Department will accept
    an electronic signature.  An employee’s time off from work due for purposes of quarantine is not covered by
    Washington PFML, but the employee may be eligible for unemployment insurance.
  • Paid Family Leave: Paid family leave is available to care for a family member with COVID-19 if a medical provider
    certifies that it qualifies as a serious health condition.
  • School closures: Employee absences due to school or day care closures are not covered under Washington PFML.
    Unemployment insurance may be available.
  • Work closures or reduced hours: If an employee is laid off work temporarily or if receives reduced hours due to
    a business slowdown or a lack of demand as a result of COVID-19, the employee may be able to receive
    unemployment benefits. If placed on “standby” status the employee does not have to look for another job while
    collecting unemployment benefits as long as certain conditions are met (including performing available telework).

Washington COVID-19 websites abound:

https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

https://paidleave.wa.gov/coronavirus/

easy-to-read comparison guide

https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19#forms

 

Are we having fun yet?

Look, let’s get real for a moment. None of us have ever lived through something precisely like this moment in time. Scary? Sure. Complicated? You bet. Changing every sec- oh wait, there it goes again. Changing every second? Yup. Here’s the good news, because we all need some. We will get through this, together. From the Matrix-Radar team, you can be assured we will not take our eyes off the ball and continue to try and help make sense of every new rule and nuance (new-ance?). If you are a Matrix or Reliance Standard client with questions about your leave of absence and disability programs, your account manager will absolutely help – he or she is getting up to speed as we all are. Like you, we are social distancing, work-from-home-ing, loving our families and taking care of business like a boss. Stick with us and stay positive, we will come out stronger, together. 

CALIFORNIA EXTENDS ITS ORGAN DONOR LEAVE LAW

Posted On October 09, 2019  

by Gail Cohen, Esq. - Director, Employment Law And Compliance

October 09, 2019

 

As our faithful readers know, we at Matrix Radar monitor state leave and accommodation law developments.  We have noticed that, in addition to the proliferation of state paid family leave laws, state legislatures have primarily focused on organ donation, leave for victims of domestic violence, and pregnancy accommodations.

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an amendment to the Michelle Maykin Memorial Donation Protection Act to afford California employees who have worked at least 90 days an additional leave of absence for the purpose of organ donation.  Currently, that Act requires private employers to give employees up to 30 business days of paid leave for organ donation and up to 5 business days of paid leave for bone marrow donation in a one-year period.  Employers can require employees to first take up to two weeks of accrued paid leave for organ donation and up to five days of accrued paid leave for bone marrow donation.

Effective January 1, 2020, the amendment (Assembly Bill 1223)  will require private employers with 15 or more employees to give eligible employees an additional 30 business days of unpaid leave in a one-year period (measured from the date the employee’s leave begins over the continuing 12 months) for the purpose of donating an organ to another person.

The amendment retains the requirement that the employee provide written verification that he or she is an organ donor and that there is a medical necessity for the organ donation.  Time spent by employees on leave under the Act as amended does not constitute a break in service and employers are required to maintain and pay for health insurance coverage on the same terms as prior to the leave.

California organ and bone marrow donation leave runs concurrently with leave under FMLA but NOT under the California Family Rights Act.

We have previously blogged about other states with organ and bone marrow donation leave laws.  To read more about those laws, please see below:

Matrix can help!

At Matrix we monitor state and federal legislative developments daily and report on any new or advancing leave- and accommodation-related laws to keep our clients and business partners up to date.  If you ever have questions about leave and accommodation laws – current or just introduced! – please contact your account manager or send an email to ping@matrixcos.com.

 

 

RHODE ISLAND JOINS THE PAID SICK AND SAFE LEAVE BANDWAGON

Posted On October 05, 2017  

by Marti Cardi, Esq. - Vice President, Product Compliance

& Gail Cohen, Esq. - Director, Employment Law And Compliance

October 05, 2017

 

Rhode Island has joined the plethora of states that have passed paid sick and safe leave legislation for the state’s workers. The Rhode Island “Healthy and Safe Families Workplace Act” (H5413/S290) was signed into law by the Governor on September 28, 2017.

The basics. Effective July 1, 2018, Rhode Island employees of an employer with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island will earn one hour of paid leave time for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of 24 hours of accrued paid sick and safe leave in 2018, 32 hours in 2019, and 40 hours in 2020 and thereafter. Employees can carry over any unused, accrued paid time; however, the use of such time is still subject to the maximums (i.e. 24 hours in 2018, etc.). Accrued but unused sick and safe time is not payable to the employee upon termination.

Employees begin to accrue leave as of July 1, 2018, or their date of hire, whichever is later. While employees can begin to earn and accrue leave, employers can impose a waiting period of up to 90 days for new hires before they can take any accrued time. Temporary employees must wait up to 180 days to use any accrued leave (unless the employer agrees otherwise).

Leave reasons.  Employees may use sick and safe leave for any of the following reasons:

  • The employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; need for preventive care, diagnosis,
    or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition.
  • Care of a family member for the same reasons as the employee’s own needs.
  • When an employer’s business or the employee’s child’s childcare facility or school is closed
    due to a public health emergency.
  • When the employee or his or her family is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Covered relationships. “Family member” is broadly defined under the Act to include: child (biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter, a stepson or stepdaughter, a legal ward, a son or daughter of a domestic partner, or a son or daughter of an employee who stands in loco parentis to that child), parent, spouse or domestic partner, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, care recipient, or member of the employee’s household. A “care recipient” is a person for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health or safety related care.


Employee notice and documentation.
Employees are required to provide notice (in the means designated by the employer in its policy) where the need for leave is foreseeable. Employer may also require documentation (again, as long as the employer has a policy that says so) for leaves of 3 or more consecutive work days. The documentation requirement is quite limited and only allows for documentation that the leave is for a permissible purpose. The employer may not require documentation regarding the nature of the illness or details of the domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.


Permitted employee discipline.
This Act also incorporates a few safeguards for employers:

  • An employer may discipline, up to and including termination of employment, an employee who is committing
    fraud or abuse by engaging in an activity that is not consistent with an allowable purpose for paid sick and
    safe leave;
  • An employer may also discipline an employee (again up to termination) who exhibits a clear pattern of taking
    leave just before or after a weekend, vacation, or holiday if the employee is unable to provide reasonable
    documentation that the leave has been taken for a permissible purpose.

 

Pings for Employers with Rhode Island Workers:

 Ensure that your pay practices are in order and ready to provide for the necessary accruals and usage accounting starting July 1, 2018

Draft a clear policy governing Rhode Island paid sick and safe leave. At a minimum, be sure to specify the means by which employees must give notice of the need for Rhode Island paid sick and safe leave (e.g., by email, other written request, verbal to supervisor, a call-in line, etc.) and your documentation requirements within the parameters of the law. Be sure your employees know about these policies by special notice, new hire notice, including in your employee handbook, and/or posting in areas in which workers congregate like lunch or break rooms.

 

LEAVE RIGHTS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:  GROWING NEED,  MULTI-STATE TREND

Posted On July 13, 2017  

by Marti Cardi, Esq. - Vice President, Product Compliance

& Gail Cohen, Esq. - Director, Employment Law And Compliance

July 13, 2017

 

& Gail Cohen, Director-Employment Law/Compliance

 

If you don’t think you need to know about state leave laws that protect victims of domestic violence and similar crimes, consider this:

  • More than 27% of women and 11% of men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence,
    and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Commonly reported negative impacts were
    feeling fearful, concern for safety, and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Significantly more women and men with a history of sexual violence or stalking reported asthma,
    irritable bowel syndrome, frequent headaches, chronic pain, difficulty sleeping, and limitations in their
    activities compared to those without a history of these forms of violence.

Centers for Disease Control 2010-2012 State Report fact sheet, accessed July 12, 2017.

In other words, many of your employees are among these victims.

At Matrix we see a comparatively small number of domestic violence leave requests.  As a good employer, are you educating your employees on their rights to this type of leave in certain states or under company policies?  We have no statistics for this, but it seems logical that leave taken early, when needed, may reduce the need for more extensive time off later.  And as an employer you’ve done the right thing.

Some of the victims’ needs, such as treatment for and recovery from physical and mental injuries resulting from the violence, may be eligible for job-protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and similar state laws.  However, these victims often require time off for other related issues such as protecting their families by moving to a new location, obtaining counseling, and obtaining a court-issued protective order.

For these reasons, the number of states enacting or expanding laws that provide leave of absence specifically for victims of domestic violence is increasing.  Nevada is the latest to join the ranks, and California has expanded its notice requirements effective July 1 (see story below).

Nevada enacts leave for victims of domestic violence

Effective January 1, 2018, Nevada employers will be required to provide leave to eligible employees who are a victim of domestic violence or whose “family or household member” is the victim of domestic violence.

Under the Nevada law, an employee must have been employed for at least 90 days to be eligible for the leave. Eligible employees may take up to 160 hours of leave (equivalent to 20 8-hour days) in a 12-month period, continuously or intermittently, within 12 months of the date of the act of domestic violence that necessitated the leave.  The Nevada leave will run concurrently with FMLA if taken for an FMLA-qualifying reason (for example, to get treatment for and recover from incapacitating injuries or care for a family member).

Domestic violence is defined as an act committed by a spouse, former spouse, person with whom the victim has a dating relationship or shares a child, and other relationships, and includes acts such as assault, battery, sexual assault, stalking, larceny, compelling an unwanted action, and trespassing.

Following any immediate leave necessitated by the incident of domestic violence, an employee must provide at least 48 hours’ advance notice to the employer of leave for any of the following reasons:

  • For the diagnosis, care or treatment of a health condition related to an act which constitutes domestic violence
    committed against the employee or family or household member of the employee;
  • To obtain counseling or assistance related to an act which constitutes domestic violence committed against
    the employee or family or household member of the employee;
  • To participate in any court proceedings related to an act which constitutes domestic violence committed
    against the employee or family or household member of the employee; or
  • To establish a safety plan, including, without limitation, any action to increase the safety of the employee
    or the family or household member of the employee from a future act which constitutes domestic violence.

Employers may require documentation supporting the need for leave, such as a police report, copy of an application for an order for protection, an affidavit from an organization which provides services to victims of domestic violence or documentation from a physician.

“Family or household member” means a: (1) Spouse; (2) Domestic partner; (3) Minor child; (4) Parent; (5) other adult person who is related within the first degree of consanguinity or affinity to the employee; or (6) other adult person who is or was actually residing with the employee at the time of the act which constitutes domestic violence.

The law also requires Nevada employers to make reasonable accommodation(s) to employees who are victims of domestic violence or whose family or household member is a victim of domestic violence.  Accommodations may include transfer or reassignment; a modified schedule; a new telephone number for work; or any other reasonable accommodations which will not create an undue hardship deemed necessary to ensure the safety of the employee, the workplace, the employer or other employees. 

The Nevada bill protects employees from adverse employment actions based on taking leave as permitted by the act.

Employers are required to maintain records of leave taken for 2 years and to post a notice of employee rights. The Nevada Department of Labor is working on a form of notice for employers to post.

To read the full text of the Nevada law, click here: https://legiscan.com/NV/text/SB361/id/1628891

Domestic violence leaves in other states

With this law Nevada joins the following states that have similar domestic violence leave laws (although they vary in details by state):  California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington.

In addition to these specific “personal protection” leaves, virtually all states have laws that provide job protection for victims or witnesses for time spent testifying in court or assisting prosecuting attorneys with respect to various crimes, not just crimes relating to domestic violence.  These laws generally do not have any employee eligibility requirements, notice requirements, or duration limitation.

Reminder:  California employers must start providing notice of domestic violence leave rights July 1

California law requires employers to provide leave of absence rights for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  Leave reasons including taking time off from work to get help to protect the employee’s and employee’s children’s health, safety or welfare, including time off to get a restraining order or other court order.  The text of the law can be viewed at this link.

Effective July 1, 2017, employers must provide a notice of employee rights under the law to all new workers upon hire and to other employees upon request.  The Labor Commissioner has developed and posted a form that employers may use to comply with the notice requirements.

Pings for employers.   Employers should copy the form and distribute it to all current employees and add it to their new-hire packets.  In addition, although the law does not specifically require this, a great extra step is to post the notice on bulletin boards in employee break rooms and wherever other employment-related notices are posted.

 

MATRIX CAN HELP!  Matrix provides leave, disability, and accommodation management services to employers seeking a comprehensive and compliant solution to these complex employer obligations. We monitor the many leave laws being passed around the country and specialize in understanding how they work together. For leave management and accommodation assistance, contact us at ping@matrixcos.com.