New Federal Law Protections for Employees During The COVID-19 Pandemic

March 23rd, 2020

As the world faces the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak, it is important to know the laws that protect employees impacted by the virus.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law.[1] Effective April 1, 2020, eligible employees are permitted to seek up to 80 hours of paid leave under the following situations:

  1. If the employee is subject to Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. If the employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  3. If the employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. If the employee is caring for another individual who is subject to Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order, or the employee is caring for another individual that has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; OR
  5. To care for their child if their child’s school or child care provider has been closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

Under the FFCRA, an employer cannot discipline, terminate, or otherwise discriminate against an employee for exercising his or her right to paid leave. But if an employee is discriminated against, he or she may be able entitled to recover damages including their lost wages and attorney’s fees in court.

Other Minnesota Law and Local City Ordinance Protections

While the FFCRA does not go into effect immediately, employees should know they may already be protected under Minnesota law and local ordinances. For example, Minneapolis and St. Paul each have Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinances,[2] which permit employees to use accrued sick time for medical diagnosis or medical care, to care for a family member who needs medical diagnosis or medical care, or to accommodate the employee’s need to care for a family member whose school or child care has been closed by public order. Minneapolis and St. Paul ordinances also prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee for either requesting or using sick leave. Similar to the protections under EFMLEA, an employee may be able to recover damages for an employer’s violations of the city ordinances.

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you during the COVID-19 pandemic, the employment team at Halunen Law is prepared to fight on your behalf.

[1] https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text

[2]https://library.municode.com/mn/minneapolis/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=COOR_TIT2AD_CH40WORE_ARTIIIPATIOFACSITI_40.220USACSISATI; https://www.stpaul.gov/sites/default/files/Media%20Root/Human%20Rights%20%26%20Equal%20Economic%20Opportunity/Saint%20Paul%20Legislative%20Code%20Title%20XXIII%2C%20Chapter%20233.01%20-%20233.21%20%282016%29%28Earned%20Sick%20and%20Safe%20Time%29.pdf

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