Note: The COVID-19 impact on business is constantly evolving.
Business owners should consult with their legal counsel to determine what Federal, State, and Local laws apply to the business’s specific challenges.
We are living in uncharted territory. COVID-19 is impacting every facet of our lives.
This includes the personal financial toll of millions of Americans who will be displaced from their jobs as a result of sweeping business closures. As of March 20, 2020, the Bank of America had issued projections that unemployment claims for the following week were anticipated to skyrocket to 3 million claims. Goldman Sachs provided similarly grave projections. Take Michigan for example. In that state, the claims for unemployment benefits rose 2,100% in the week ending March 20, 2020. It is anticipated that such bleak figures will mushroom nationwide in the days and weeks to come.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law on March 18, 2020.
The most sweeping part of FFCRA is the requirement for businesses under 500 employees to provide certain benefits to their employees. Specifically, under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work either on the premises or remotely due to a need for leave because the employee:
- is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
- is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or childcare provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
- is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.
If the business employs fewer than 50 employees, than the business may qualify for an exemption to the law if the business can demonstrate that application of the FFCRA leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. See https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave#_ftn1 for further information.
Given that there is no legal precedent on the application of the exemption to a given circumstance, it remains to be seen just how many businesses with fewer than 50 employees may actually qualify for the exemption.
The break-neck speed in which the outbreak is impacting businesses exemplifies why business owners should seek legal counsel to determine their rights and obligations during this most unprecedented time.
State and local laws are likely to continue to develop as well, making it all the more necessary for employers to closely monitor these developments.