The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) became effective in April 2020 and will expire on January 1, 2021. The FFCRA requires employers with 500 or fewer employee to provide up to eighty hours of paid sick leave to their employees for COVID-19 related events. It also extends limited protections to employees who otherwise would not have qualified for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Although the FFCRA will soon expire, employees are still afforded protections under other state and federal laws.
Arizona’s Paid Sick Time Law
Employers are required to provide all part-time employees at least twenty-four hours and all full-time employees at least forty hours of of paid sick time annually. Paid sick time can be used for a myriad of COVID-19 related events, including when:
- An employee or family member is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
- An employee or family member has been diagnosed with and/or is being treated for COVID-19.
- An employee’s workplace has been closed by order of a public official.
- An employee needs to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official.
- A public health official determines an employee or family member’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others due to exposure to COVID-19.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA protects employees from discrimination based upon their disabilities. Once an employer becomes aware of an employee’s disability, it has an obligation to confer with the employee to determine whether they require a reasonable accommodation. Several courts have determined that employees who have conditions making them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, such as being immunocompromised, are disabled under the ADA. Such employees may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation, such as the ability to telecommute. However, employers are only required to provide such accommodations if disabled employees can continue to perform their core job functions with the accommodation and if providing the accommodation will not impose an undue hardship upon the employer.
Family Medical Leave Act
Employees who work for employers with fifty or more employees may be eligible to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave to seek medical care or care for an ill family member. The employer is required to hold an employee’s job open while the employee is on FMLA leave. However, unlike leave under Arizona’s Paid Sick Time Law, leave under the FMLA is unpaid.
Occupational Safety and Health Act
OSHA requires employers to provide employees a safe working environment free of serious recognized hazards. Generally speaking, this requires employers to provide employees access to equipment to minimize the spread of COVID-19, such as soap, water, and personal protective equipment, when necessary.
Employers and employees with questions about their obligations and rights in the wake of the pandemic should consult with an experienced employment law attorney. State and federal authorities are continuously issuing new guidance, which makes complying with best practices a fluid and everchanging proposition.