Yesterday afternoon, Aug. 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued three new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) related to the reopening of schools in various formats and employee paid leave eligibility under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
The FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave to employees for certain reasons related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (PSLA) and expands the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide employees up to 12 weeks of emergency job-protected leave to care for a child as a result of school or child care closings due to a public health emergency. The recent FAQ address caregiver leave associated with the closure of schools, which, if eligible, entitles employees to two-thirds’ pay up to $200 per day ($10,000 in aggregate).
New FAQ addressing school closures
The following is an overview of DOL’s three newly issued FAQ regarding school closures:
A child attends a school operating on an alternate day basis
The DOL confirmed in FAQ #98 that an employee will be eligible for paid leave on an intermittent basis to accommodate a hybrid school schedule whereby children attend school both in-person and remotely. For purposes of the FFCRA and its implementing regulations, the school is effectively closed on days that a child cannot attend in person and leave is available on remote-learning days. The DOL cautions in its guidance that even under these circumstances, leave is only available if no other suitable person is available to care for the child.
A parent chooses remote learning when in-person instruction is available
FAQ #99 makes clear that FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is otherwise open for in-person attendance. As a result, if a child needs care because the employee chose a virtual or remote school option, the employee is ineligible for leave. The DOL notes, however, that if the child is home due to a quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-isolate or self-quarantine, an employee may be eligible to take paid leave to care for the child.
School begins with remote learning, but shifts to in-person instruction if conditions change
FAQ #100 clarifies that leave eligibility will change as schools adopt different teaching models. Using the example of a school that starts virtually with the hope of returning to in-person teaching in the future, the DOL explains that an employee will be eligible for leave during the remote learning period for so long as the school remains closed, but eligibility will end when the school converts to in-person instruction.
Additional FFCRA resources
Consider reviewing the following resources to learn more about the FFCRA:
Members of Godfrey & Kahn’s Labor, Employment & Immigration Law Practice Group are available to discuss back-to-school related leave requests or other labor and employment matters.