FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE, SICK LEAVE, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

Now that Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (an additional $600 per week) has terminated, and children are returning to school on a partial or full-time remote learning basis, many employees are confronting numerous personal issues such as difficult cash flow, an inability to both work and provide child supervision, and anxiety about the safety of the workplace and public transportation. As a result, many employees are looking for additional sources of financial relief--and are turning to their employers and governmental assistance programs. We have received a marked increase in inquiries concerning employees’ entitlements to paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and the newly enacted program providing for $300 per week under a Federal “lost wages assistance” program created by an Executive Order signed on August 8th.

Both New York State and the Federal government (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) expanded both paid family medical leave and paid sick leave to cover certain Covid-19 related situations including when school or childcare is unavailable for a Covid-19 related reason. The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued guidance addressing the re-opening of schools on an in-class/remote learning hybrid model and the circumstances under which a parent may qualify for paid leave, including intermittent paid leave. Employees have also requested paid leave because they reside with elderly or immune-compromised household members, or because they or their children or household members are subject to isolation or quarantine restrictions. There are specific criteria under which employees are eligible for paid family medical leave and/or paid sick leave, whether pursuant to New York State, Federal or expanded Covid-19 related leave programs. Some factors which may affect an employee’s entitlement to paid family and medical leave and/or paid sick leave include the availability of teleworking, the availability of others to provide childcare, whether the employee already used any of these benefits, and in some cases, the length of employment. Length of employment may be particularly relevant to an employee who was terminated (or “furloughed”) and later re-hired, or who collected unemployment insurance.

It is very important to understand under what circumstances employees are (or are not) entitled to participate in any or all of these programs. Both employers and employees must be cognizant of whether an employee’s circumstances satisfy the eligibility requirements and whether an employee’s employment status has impacted his or her eligibility for paid family and medical leave and/or paid sick leave.

We urge you to be careful before signing any documents or making any decisions pertaining to paid family and medical leave, paid sick leave or unemployment insurance. We are happy to discuss these benefits and the interplay between them with you so you can determine how best to proceed. Please feel free to contact Lynda Goldfarb, who heads our Covid Related Leave Department, at LGoldfarb@clmclaw.com or (516) 365-1400 ext. 127.