U.S. Department of Labor Expands FFCRA Guidance Including Impact of Furloughs and Business Closures
On March 26, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) provided significantly expanded guidance as to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which is available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions. The DOL has now provided much needed guidance for employers as to what rights, if any, an individual may have in the wake of a furlough or business closure.
Importantly, the DOL has explained that should a company remain open but furlough its employees due to a lack of work, said employees are not eligible for the FFCRA’s paid sick leave or expanded FMLA benefits. Thus, despite the April 1, 2020, effective date, furloughed employees do not qualify for the benefits provided under the FFCRA. Instead, however, employees may pursue unemployment benefits.
Additionally, the DOL addressed company closures due to lack of business or forced closure as a response to COVID-19. Here, employers are responsible for providing the applicable FFCRA benefits unless and until the employer ceases operations. Such coverage, pursuant to the terms of the FFCRA, shall be provided to eligible employees up to the date of closure. Thus, if an employer closes prior to April 1, 2020, the effective date of the FFCRA, employees who are furloughed or laid off will not receive FFCRA benefits. Such employees may also pursue unemployment benefits.
Further, the DOL also provided information about: the tax credits available to employers under the FFCRA; telework arrangements with employees and eligibility for FFCRA benefits; employees retaining health insurance while receiving FFCRA benefits; and the interplay between FFCRA benefits and collective bargaining agreements.
Employers are well-advised to read the expanded guidance as it provides answers to many of the questions that have been raised since the law was passed on March 18, 2020. If you have questions regarding the interpretation of or compliance with the FFCRA, or other applicable federal and state employment laws, please do not hesitate to contact us. We recognize the demands placed upon businesses and daily life; we are helping clients with the full range of coronavirus-related employment issues, including coronavirus policies and procedures, furlough and layoff notices, personnel and wage and hour questions, positive employee notification letters, travel letters per NJ Executive Order 107, managing employees’ leaves of absence rights, and more.