Under the existing law, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employers of a certain size are required to allow workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing their job for personal sickness, to take care of sick family members or for a new baby. That could well apply to anyone who is sick or caring for a sick family member. It would not apply to many other people who cannot work just because of stay-at-home orders.

Under the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), paid sick and family leave are now available to employees where the employer has less than 500 employees, some local, state and federal government employees, and employees under a multi-employer collective agreement. Employers smaller than 50 employees might be left out if they request it, and health care workers and first responders may be left out. (If your employer does not fit into a covered employer category, you may be eligible for leave under regular FMLA rules that keep you from being fired, but do not provide payment. )

There are two new kinds of required leave that do provide pay.

§ Under FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act,

  • Full-time employees can get up to 80 hours of fully paid time off (maximum $511 per day, $5110 total) for self-quarantine, seeking a diagnosis, treatment, or preventive care for COVID-19.
  • Full-time employees can get up to 80 hours at 2/3 of your regular pay (maximum $200/day) to care for a family member with COVID-19, to care for a child because school was closed due to COVID-19 or because their child care is unavailable due to COVID-19.
  • Two-week Emergency Paid Sick Leave is available to government employees.

§ Under the Emergency Paid Family Leave Act,

  • Employers are required to provide 12 weeks of protected leave, the first two unpaid and the other 10 paid at least 2/3 of your usual pay, to take care of kids because of a school closure or unavailable child care due to COVID-19.
  • Health care workers and first responders may not be eligible to use this law, but their employers would have to offer a good reason to deny this relief. Government workers are not eligible for this 12-week paid leave program. You can request family leave by notifying your employer in writing (by fax, e-mail, or certified mail so you have proof) that you want to take the kind of leave that fits your situation. If the employer refuses to pay you, you can sue them later for twice what they should have paid.

The new required paid leave started on April 2, 2020. The money your employer pays you will be refunded by the federal government through a tax refund. In fact, if you are self- employed, but not working because of COVID-19, you can pay yourself for medical leave under these programs and get it back as a tax refund. If you request these new kinds of paid leave and your employer wrongly fails to pay them you can sue them later (within 2 years) for twice what they should have paid and attorney fees.

Lone Star Legal Aid will not start filing this kind of lawsuits for at least several months, but a lawsuit depends on you sending your employer a request as soon as possible. Below are three sample letters to request paid leave. Please note: If you are getting paid leave, you are not eligible for unemployment.

LETTERS TO ASK FOR PAID LEAVE

SICK EMPLOYEE LETTER # 1:

“I need to take my 10 days Paid Sick Leave under the Families First Corona Virus Response Act HR 6201, starting ______ (date) because of coronavirus. Please let me know if you need any more details. I am taking it because (check one)

___ I’m sick and I have COVID symptoms so I’m trying to get at test or see a doctor, or

___ I’m been told I need to be quarantined or isolated because of possible COVID exposure”

I wouldn’t ask for this if it were going to cost you money, but I read that the federal government will give you a tax credit for this COVID related leave. Thank you.

OR

EMPLOYEE WITH KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL OR DAYCARE LETTER # 2 (not government employees):

“My kids are out of school because of the COVID school closure. I need to take my 10 days Paid Sick Leave and then my 50 days Emergency Family and Medical Leave under the Families First Corona Virus Response Act HR 6201, starting ______ (date) because of coronavirus. Please let me know if you need any more details.

I wouldn’t ask for this if it were going to cost you money, but I read that the federal government will give you a tax credit for this COVID related leave. Thank you.

OR

EMPLOYEE TAKING CARE OF SOMEONE SICK LETTER # 3:

“I need to take my 10 days Paid Sick Leave under the Families First Corona Virus Response Act HR 6201, starting ______ (date) because of coronavirus. Please let me know if you need any more details. I am taking it because I’m taking care of someone who: (check one)

___ is sick and I have COVID symptoms so I’m trying to get at test or see a doctor, or

___ has been told to be quarantined or isolated because of possible COVID exposure”

I wouldn’t ask for this if it were going to cost you money, but I read that the federal government will give you a tax credit for this COVID related leave. Thank you.”


Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at http://www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org