Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Mar 24, 2020

Reminder: Not all workers get new federal leave

COVID-19Leave Laws 

Employers with 500 or more workers companywide may want to communicate to their workers that the recently-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) may not apply to them. As we previously reported, the FFCRA will allow eligible workers to take paid sick leave and/or family leave for certain COVID-19 (coronavirus)-related reasons starting April 1, 2020. Even though the leave provisions of the FFCRA only apply to employers with fewer than 500 workers, we’ve heard from some members with 500 or more workers that their workers think they’ll be able to take either kind of paid leave under the new law. That may not be true, and you may want to explicitly tell your workers that your company could be exempt from the new law.

We say “could be exempt” because the Department of Labor (DOL) hasn’t yet released regulations detailing certain provisions of the new law. We currently interpret the “fewer than 500” requirement for the new types of leave to apply companywide, based on the U.S. workforce. In other words, if a company has “fewer than 500” workers companywide in the U.S., their eligible workers will be entitled to the new types of leave. That means workers at companies with 500 or more workers in the U.S. companywide won’t be entitled to the new leave. It’s possible, however, that the DOL could take a radically different approach, such as tallying the number of workers by location. Vigilant will update members when the DOL releases its guidance.

Tips: Temper worker expectations now. If you have 500 or more employees, get out in front of the probable disappointment that many of your workers may feel, since they aren’t going to get a new type of leave that workers at other companies might be getting. Remind your workers about other types of leave available to them, such as paid time off (PTO) or paid sick time under company policy and/or state or local law. Consider loosening your own leave policies as a middle ground. Whatever you do, don’t let misinformation get ahold of your workers. Even if your employees will be disappointed, settling expectations may be more helpful than not in this time of uncertainty.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.