Bereavement Leave and Employee Support Amid COVID-19

Emery Gullickson Richards

As employers seek to support employees losing loved ones to the coronavirus COVID-19, thoughtful consideration of workplace measures takes on critical significance. How employers support employees through the loss of a loved one has an indelible impact on the lives of employees, the work environment, and the organization’s integrity. Bereavement leave policies address the unprecedented circumstances created by the mounting, tragic toll of COVID-19, providing support to employees at the time when they need it most. Although bereavement leave policies are not legally required in most jurisdictions in the United States, most U.S. employers offer some amount of paid bereavement leave.[1]

Bereavement Leave Laws

Only a small number of jurisdictions have bereavement leave laws. For example, the Oregon Family Leave Act (“OFLA”) provides employees at certain employers[2] in the state with the right to take protected leave to make funeral arrangements, attend a funeral, or to grieve a family member who has passed away. This bereavement leave may last for a period of up to two weeks and must be completed within 60 days of the employee learning of the death of their loved one. Similarly, the Illinois Child Bereavement Leave Act provides employees[3] with bereavement leave rights in the event of the loss of a child, and an employee who loses more than one child within a year may take up to six weeks of bereavement leave. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have considered similar laws. Recently, a Massachusetts resident created an online petition urging legislators to take up the cause again amid the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the increased focus on these policies today. Continue reading “Bereavement Leave and Employee Support Amid COVID-19”

Coronavirus Update: Senate Passes Virus Relief Bill, Plans for Even Bigger Stimulus

Jason E. Reisman and Andrew I. Herman

The Senate cleared the second major bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic, with lawmakers rushing to follow up with an additional economic rescue package that President Donald Trump’s administration estimates will cost $1.3 trillion. The 90-8 vote Wednesday, following House passage on Saturday, sends Trump a measure providing paid sick leave, food assistance for vulnerable populations and financial help for coronavirus testing. As the Senate voted, Republican and Democratic leaders were already working on the next proposal.

For the latest updates, please visit Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force page. 

Coronavirus Update: House Passes Bill for Paid Leave and Other Emergency Relief

Jason E. Reisman and Andrew I. Herman

On March 14, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation in response to the increasing disruption that coronavirus (“COVID-19”) is having on businesses and daily life. The Emergency Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) includes several measures to address the significant impact of COVID-19 on employment for American workers and their families, including provisions for emergency paid leave and sick time, as well as funds and support for state unemployment compensation programs. To protect against the creation of “permanent” paid leave benefits and limit it to addressing the COVID-19 impact, this bill sunsets at the end of 2020.

On March 16, 2020, the House passed a “technical corrections” bill by unanimous consent, which included changes intended to address concerns that the legislation’s provisions for emergency paid leave and sick time would be devastating to small and midsize businesses.  

THE EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT

The bill amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to provide employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees with the ability to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave on a partially paid basis under the FMLA if the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for a child due to the closure of a school or place of care, or a childcare provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 public health emergency.

Who is eligible for COVID-19 leave?

Any employee who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days by an employer with fewer than 500 employees. There is no minimum hours threshold like the normal FMLA eligibility requirement that an employee have worked at least 1,250 hours over the preceding 12 months.

How much must an employee be paid for COVID-19 leave?

The first 10 days of COVID-19 leave is unpaid. An employee can choose to use vacation or other paid time off during this period. A provision restricting employers from requiring employees to do so was removed in the bill’s “technical corrections.”

Employers must pay two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay after the first 10 days of COVID-19 leave, but such pay is not to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate.

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