Employment Rights In A Time of Coronavirus

As of the time of this blog post, the state of Louisiana is under a “stay at home” order issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards.  This is a scary time for both employers and employees.  Many businesses have temporarily shut down, and many other workers have seen their hours shrink.  This is particularly true for restaurants, beauty parlors, and other companies in the service industries. Nevertheless, Congress has acted relatively quickly in passing bills providing new employment rights related to the coronavirus.

First, if you have lost your job, or if your hours have been significantly cut, you should apply for unemployment insurance immediately.  Even if you believe that your situation is temporary, it is important to get your paperwork in now.  You can apply online at http://www.laworks.net/, or call (225) 342-3111.  Note that you do not need a lawyer to apply for unemployment payments – it is intended to be a simple process.

Second, if you are fortunate enough to keep your job during the coronavirus crisis, you may be wondering what employment rights – including sick leave rights – you have.  To begin with, the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA still applies to eligible employees, which provides up to 12 weeks of leave related to any serious health condition, or a serious health condition of a close relative.  Unfortunately, the FMLA only applies to certain employers and the eligibility requirements are complex (to say the least) so it does not cover everyone.  Read our article on FMLA eligibility to learn more about your rights under this Act.

More recently, Congress has passed two coronavirus-specific laws which are intended to address this crisis in particular – The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Paid Sick Leave Act.  Each law is only temporary, and they are set to expire at the end of 2020.  The important points of each law are explained below.

Emergency FMLA
  1. Applies only to employers that have less than 500 employees
  2. Applies to employees who have worked that an employer for at least 30 days
  3. Applies to employees with a child under 18 years old whose school closes or child care is unable to continue
  4. The Department of Labor may issue regs exempting medical professionals from this law
  5. The Department of Labor may issue exemptions for employers under 50 employees if it would jeopardize the viability of the business
  6. The first ten days of leave are unpaid
  7. The remaining leave is paid at a 2/3 rate for your normally scheduled hours
  8. Pay is limited to $200 per day and total cap of $10,000.00
  9. Leave ends after 12 weeks or the school reopens.
Paid Sick Leave Act
  1. Applies only to employers with less than 500 employees
  2. Applies if the employee or his child is under quarantine or are showing symptoms of coronavirus and seeking medical diagnosis
  3. Provides for 80 hours of paid sick time (less for part time workers)
  4. Has anti-retaliation provision
  5. Violation of the act is treated as violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Needless to say, the full text of these laws is significantly more complicated and these are meant only as general guidelines.  If you have any questions about your employment rights under the coronavirus laws, email New Orleans employment attorney Charles Stiegler today, or call (504) 267-0777.