On March 18, 2020 the U.S. federal government enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), in its efforts to address the deleterious effects the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on the economy and in particular employers and their employees. The FFCRA applies to all employers with less than 500 employees; however, there is an exemption for employers with less than 50 employees if the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability ”would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern”. Further guidance from the Dept. of Labor will be provided in April for employers electing this exemption. Generally the FFCRA provides for paid leave to the employees of covered employers via two provisions, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act as follows:
• Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
• Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or 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; and
• Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
The FFCRA also requires the posting of the Department of Labor poster in all covered employer’s workspaces. Click on the following link for the poster-EMPLOYEE RIGHTS. If you have any further questions about how the FFCRA applies to your Virgin Islands business or would like to discuss qualifying for the 50-employee exemption, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ravinder S. Nagi is Assistant Managing Attorney and Chair of the Labor and Employment Practice Group at BoltNagi PC, a full-service business law firm on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.