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New Employee Leave Laws in the Wake of COVID-19

March 24, 2020  |  Hassina Obaidy

As employers are currently working to rapidly address evolving challenges and changes in the wake of the COVID-19 global outbreak, U.S. state laws have also changed to provide employees and employers rights. While these laws are set in place to quickly address COVID-19, it’s up to the employer to take that extra step to support their workforce. Below is a detailed list of paid leave guidances and new state laws:

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights

This act requires certain employers to provide employees with expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The Department of Labor’s (Department) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through December 31, 2020.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which will go into effect April 2, 2020, applies to public and private employers with a company size of 500 or less. 

If employees are unable to work due to a federal, state, or local government-mandated quarantine (or advised by a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they may earn “Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of expanded family and medical leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay.”

In addition, the employee is also caring for a child whose school or child care provider is closed due to COVID-19, they earn “two weeks (up to 80 hours) of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.”

If an employee has been employed for at least 30 calendar days and is unable to work due to a need for leave to care for a child, they earn “up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee.”

New and Updated Laws by State

New York

New York’s new sick leave requirements relate to both the coronavirus crisis and the opportunity to propose new state-mandated paid sick leave moving forward. Effective immediately, the new law provides paid and unpaid sick leave for employees ordered to quarantine due to COVID-19. Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature have outlined the new law by employer size. 

NY Paid Time Leave

Source: The National Law Review


In California, if an employee is tested positive for COVID-19, the employer must abide by and compensate under the Paid Sick Leave law and used if the employee is caring for a sick family member or taking preventive care. Under the law, preventive care includes self-quarantine as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19 and if quarantine is recommended by health care providers or civil authorities. An employee may also choose to take other paid leave if they’ve reached the limit on their sick leave, such as vacation or paid time off policy.

Employees are qualified for Paid Family Leave if they’re unable to work because the employee is caring for an ill or quarantined family member, certified by a healthcare provider. Eligible employees can earn up to six weeks of benefit payments who have a full or partial loss of wages because they need time off to care for an ill family member.

Source: Department of Industrial Relations


The Office of Nevada Labor Commissioner has provided guidance to employers in Nevada and are only encouraged to take these steps. The guidance should also be followed by employers with a company size of 50 or less. 

  • Employers must not subtract hours of employees paid leave balance if they miss work due to a mandatory quarantine issued by local, state, or federal agencies. 
  • Encourage employers to provide paid time leave for employees who miss work during a quarantine without reducing their paid leave balance. 
  • Employers are also encouraged to offer alternative working arrangements, such as remote work. 
  • Employees are allowed to use their paid sick leave during quarantine, the employer must grant their request as required under the paid leave law. 

New Jersey

The New Jersey Department of Labor provides guidance to New Jersey employers. The Department of Labor listed hypothetical scenarios related to COVID-19:

  • Employees who test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19 and unable to work may be:
    • Entitled to use accrued, unused earned sick leave time under the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law
    • Eligible for temporary disability insurance
    • Eligible for workers’ compensation benefits
  • Employees may be eligible for full or partial unemployment benefits if:
    • Their place of work is closed, either temporarily or permanently due to COVID-19
    • If an employee’s hours are cut down by more than 20% per week
  • Employees may be eligible for unemployment benefits if the employer sends them home due to possible exposure of COVID-19. However, this claim would be “considered a temporary layoff, and employees seeking such benefits would be relieved of the obligation to show they are able, available, and actively seeking work in order to receive these benefits,” according to SHRM
  • If employees are caring for a family member who is tested positive for COVID-19 or has its symptoms, they may be eligible for Family Leave Insurance. 
  • Employees can use their accrued, unused earned sick leave time under the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law if they are:
    • Ordered to self-quarantine
    • Unable to work due to workplace closure, or closure of their children’s school 
    • Caring for a relative who is tested positive for COVID-19 or has its symptoms. 

Emtrain will provide more updates to the latest laws and regulations that impact employees and employers today.

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