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Can My Employer Fire Me if I got Sick With Corona Virus or if I Cannot Find day Care Solution for my Kid?

In response to the novel corona virus pandemic, legislation enacted Families First Corona virus Response Act (FFCRA) which provides additional protections for employees affected by the COVID-19. Effective April 1, 2020 until December 31, 2020, Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires employers to compensate those affected by COVID-19 with paid sick leave. 

FFCRA Qualifications for Employees

To receive Emergency Paid Sick leave, employees must be unable to work due to COVID-19 or asked to self-quarantine by a health professional or have symptoms relating to COVID-19 and is awaiting a diagnosis, caring for a family member who has symptoms of COVID-19 or is unable to find alternative solution to care for a child.

Generally, any of the above listed reasons qualify the full-time employee for at least two weeks of paid sick leave at employee’s usual rate of pay. However, depending on the reasons the leave is required, the employee may be eligible for longer leave. If the employee’s rate of pay is less than California’s applicable minimum wage, the employee is entitled to receive the greater amount of wage pay for paid sick leave.

In the event that the employer is required to close down operations, due to decline in a business from COVID-19 reasons, the employee may not be able to receive the two weeks of paid sick leave although qualified. This is due to there being no available work for the employee to perform, regardless if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19, experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 or have been asked to quarantine by a health professional. If, the employer is able to provide work, allows the employee to work from the place where the employee is isolating and the employee has no issues with producing work, the employee may be exempt from receiving paid sick leave.

Family

An employee is entitled to paid sick leave for two weeks (80 hours) at 2/3 of employee’s rate if, the employee’s family member needs care due to COVID-19 as diagnosed by a health professional or if employee has children with no accessibility to a care giver or care services due to COVID-19 reasons.

The individual the employee is caring for must be immediate family or live at the employee’s residence. Further, the person in need of care must be under the employee’s legal guardianship and either under the age of 18 or 18 years or older, and in need of care due to a disability.

Childcare

An added ten (10) weeks, paid at 2/3 employee’s rate, shall be given to employees who are unable to find child care services and child care providers due to COVID-19 related reasons. Employees must have been employed for at least thirty (30) days to qualify to the paid expanded family and medical leave pursuant to Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

All full-time employees under employers covered by FFCRA, are allowed to receive up to two (2) weeks off for any related COVID-19 reasons despite how long the employee has worked for employer.

Exemptions

Although most public and private employers with 500 or less employees are subject to FFCRA, there are exceptions for some small business owners with less than 50 employees. If an employee’s inability to obtain a child care provider or a child care service due to COVID-19 places the business in risk of closure, an employer may be exempt from certain provisions of this paid leave.

An employer cannot retaliate against you for requesting the paid sick for the reasons relating to COVID-19 discussed here. If an employer is threatening to terminate you or is making immigration-related threats against you for exercising your rights under Families First Coronavirus Response Act, you may have a claim for retaliation.

Employers cannot force employees to take other provided paid leaves such as vacation time before using their entitled Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Additionally, an employer may not obligate the employee on paid sick leave to find coverage or a replacement for his paid leave absence or terminate and reprimand employees for taking paid sick leave.

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