Career Advice

Know Your Employment Rights During The Coronavirus Pandemic

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The novel coronavirus has upended many lives with constantly changing safety guidelines in the community and in the workplace. To keep up with the constantly changing needs of Americans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically those in the workforce, recent developments in sick leave through FMLA have shifted. The extended conditions and coverages include what kinds of sick leave are available, who is qualified, and the kinds of compensation employers must provide.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, or FMLA, is a federal labor law that requires employers to provide qualified employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during a 12-month period according to the U.S. News & World Report. Under the traditional FMLA private-sector employers with 50 employees or more qualify under FMLA as well as public agencies, local, state, and federal employers. 

To qualify under FMLA you must have 12 months of employment with a qualified business and have worked at least 1,250 hours for the business in the past 12 months. Unless it was based on military obligations or written agreement, the 12 months of employment do not need to be consecutive, but seven-year or more breaks are not counted toward an employees’ years of service. You must also have a qualifying reason for taking FMLA leave.

Common reasons are because of childbirth, to look after a seriously ill family member, or recover from an illness. Because of those reasons, you are entitled to 12 weeks of protective leave, meaning you must be placed in your original job or an equivalent role upon your return. All these guidelines fall under the traditional FMLA. 

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

The March 2020 changes in response to the coronavirus, called the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, temporarily expand the rights of employees. According to Forbes, any employer with less than 500 employees are required to give protected leave, though some small businesses may be exempt. In addition, you do not have to wait until you have been employed for 12 months to ask for FMLA. The expansion act allows 30 calendar days. Reasons for taking EFMLA have broadened as well, specifically targeting those who have been affected by the coronavirus.

The novel coronavirus has upended many lives with constantly changing safety guidelines in the community and in the workplace. To keep up with the constantly changing needs of Americans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, recent developments in sick leave through FMLA have shifted.

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FMLA Leave

Parents can take FMLA leave if they are unable to work, work remotely, or telework because they must care for a child who cannot go to school or daycare because of the coronavirus. Moreover, employers are required to pay at least some leave whereas all FMLA leave was considered unpaid. The amount varies, depending on the amount of paid time off an employee may be eligible for. These new expansions will go until December 31, 2020.

It’s important to note the EFMLA leave benefits do not combine with the FMLA leave benefits. Forbes says an eligible employee gets up to 12 weeks total for protective family and medical leave whether you use all of it or not.

If you’re still unclear about what your rights are under the EFMLA and would like more information, you may need to consult with an attorney.

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