Family and Medical Leave: Sick Leave Upgraded Through 2020

Chicago Business Lawyer George Bellas answers questions for business owners.

Business FAQs about the COVID-19 Pandemic

Small and medium-sized businesses with up to 500 employees are required to provide employees with up to 14 weeks of leave, most of which must be paid, for circumstances related to COVID-19, under a pair of temporary pieces of legislation that passed Congress last month.

Starting April 2 and through December 31, 2020, the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act requires that employers provide up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave—which has been required to be offered, but not required to be paid, since the 1993 passage of the original legislation. And also from April 2 through the end of the year, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires two weeks of paid sick leave.

To qualify for Family and Medical Leave, and employee must have been with the workplace for at least 30 days and must either have:

  • COVID-19 symptoms or reasonable suspicion of same;
  • School-aged children whose schools are shuttered and require supervision; or,
  • Employment in a non-essential business subject to government stay-at-home orders, performing a type of work that cannot be handled remotely.

The first 10 working days of Family and Medical Leave are not required to be paid time off, but the rest must be compensated. However, employees will only receive two-thirds of their regular salary during this time, as well as a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 total for the leave taken.

Employers who have less than 50 workers are eligible for exemptions for providing Family and Medical Leave, and for the subsequent mandate that they hold the employee’s position open until he or she returns. But those with 25 or more employees can’t terminate those on leave. And certain types of very essential occupations are exempt from the emergency act, including first responders and those in healthcare.

Paid sick time must be offered if the employee is facing:

  • COVID-19 symptoms or reasonable suspicion of same;
  • A family member with actual or suspected symptoms who needs their care; or,
  • School-aged children who schools are shuttered.

Full-time employees can take up to 80 hours of sick leave, while part-time workers receive less. The emergency act places maximums of $200 to $511 per day, and a total of $2,000 to $5,110 over the 10 days, depending on the reasons sick time is being requested.

Failure to pay sick time can be treated as a wage-and-hour violation because sick time counts as wages, and there are no exemptions to be sought for paying the sick leave.

If you have questions about your business in the COVID-19 pandemic, please check out my other Blog posts on the subject of the pandemic or call us for assistance.