House Passes Bill Addressing Coronavirus Workplace Issues

March 13, 2020

The House passed a legislative compromise with the Trump administration mandating employers provide emergency paid sick leave and FMLA benefits to all employees impacted by the coronavirus for one year and providing a 100% payroll tax credit to employers for the cost of those benefits, as Democrats continue to press for permanent paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave mandates.

As of the time of publication, the bill would:

  • Require employers with less than 500 employees to provide 112 hours of emergency paid sick leave to full-time employees and a prorated amount of leave to part-time employees in addition to any paid leave benefits they are already providing.

    • Leave may be used for coronavirus illness, quarantine, or care-giving, and

    • The mandate sunsets after one year with no carryover of unused hours.

  • Expand the eligible reasons for taking FMLA leave to include a quarantine, illness, or school closure related to COVID-19.  This type of FMLA leave cannot be taken intermittently.  Employers would be required to pay for the FMLA benefits given under these expanded reasons.  However, the bill would also:

  • Provide a 100% payroll tax credit to employers for the cost of the emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave benefits up to $511 per day and $7,156 per quarter, and

  • Encourage states to relax eligibility for unemployment insurance for coronavirus-related disruptions and providing funding for virus testing.

President Trump may also take steps to defer tax payments for negatively impacted individuals and businesses and may still invoke the National Emergencies Act, which gives him a variety of powers, including the ability to regulate the operation of private enterprise and restrict travel.

Outlook:  The House will quickly enact the measure, but it is unclear what changes the Senate will make to the bill when they take it up presumably this Monday.  The paid leave provision was a result of direct negotiations between the White House and House Democrats, so the votes of House Republicans will be watched closely.