A law blog by J. Tyler Henderson, Attorney
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Families First Coronavirus Response Act



On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which made significant changes to federally-mandated paid time off.  Here is a summary of the key changes made by the Act for employers with fewer than 500 employees.

EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT
  • Eligibility: Any employee who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days is now eligible for FMLA leave for the public health emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

          > If leave is not requested as a result of the public health emergency, the eligibility provisions of the FMLA (see “Previous Eligibility Requirement” below) continue to apply.

          + Previous Eligibility Requirement: Eligible employees had to be employed for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours of service during previous 12 month period to qualify for coverage under the FMLA.
  •  Employer Threshold:  The FMLA now covers all employers with 500 or fewer employees.
          Previous Employer Threshold: Employers were subject to the FMLA if the employer had 50 or more employees each work day for 20 or more work-weeks during the current or preceding calendar year.
  • Qualifying Need for Leave:  Leave is also permitted for an employee who is unable to work (or telework) due to the need to provide child care to a child under the age of 18 if the child’s school or child care provider has closed due to the public health emergency.
  • Paid Time Off:  For leave resulting from the public health emergency, after an initial 10 days of leave (which may be unpaid leave), the employer must provide paid time off to each employee at the rate of 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay, multiplied by the number of hours the employee would otherwise normally work. Paid time off is capped at a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.  The Paid Time Off requirement extends only to leave resulting from the public health emergency. 
          Paid Time Off for employees with varied hours is calculated using the average number of hours that the employee was scheduled to work each day over the 6 month period, ending on the date when the employee takes leave.  For employees who were not employed during  that previous 6 month period, the number of hours is the employee’s reasonable expectation of hours to be worked at the time of hire.
           
            + Previous Paid Time Off Requirement: None.
  •  Restoration to Employment
          Employers with 25 or more Employees.: Employer must restore employee to the same or equivalent position upon return from leave.
 
          Employers with 24 or fewer Employees:  Same requirement as employers with 25 or more employees, but restoration of employment is not required IF:
 
  1. The leave was required for a public health emergency;
  2. The employee’s position was eliminated due to the public health emergency;
  3. The employer made reasonable efforts to restore the employee to a reasonably equivalent position; and
  4. The employer contacts the employee if a reasonably equivalent position becomes available within one year of the earlier of:
                 - The date on which the public health emergency concludes; or
                 - The date that is 12 weeks after the date on which the public health emergency leave commences
 
  • Sunset Provision:  The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provisions are set tp expire on December 31, 2020.

 ENACTMENT OF THE EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT

In addition to the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act discussed above, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act also includes a separate paid leave act, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, for employees that have, are experiencing symptoms of, or are caring for a family member with, COVID-19.
  • Covered Employer:  An employer with fewer than 500 employees.
  •  Eligible Employee:  An employee who is:
  1.      Subject to a federal, state, or local COVID-19 quarantine or isolation order;
  2.     Advised by a health care provider to quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
  3.     Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis;
  4.     Caring for an individual subject to a quarantine order;
  5.     Caring for a child if the school or child care provider is closed due to COVID-19; or
  6.     Is experiencing a substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Duration of Paid Time Off:
  1.     Full Time Employees: 80 hours.
  2.     Part Time Employees: The number of hours equal to that which the employees works on average over a two week period.
  • Amount of Paid Time Off:
  1.     Eligible Employees Under Nos. 1-3 above (Employee Experiencing COVID-19 or Similar Symptoms):  Regular rate of pay, capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.
  2.     Eligible Employee Under Nos. 4-6 above (Caring for Others): Regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate.
  • No Effect on Other Paid Sick Leave:  Employer must provide paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act without requiring the employee to use other sick leave provided by the employer.
  • Sunset Provision:  The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is set to expires on December 31, 2020.
 
EMPLOYER TAX CREDITS
  • FICA and Medicare taxes: Wages paid by reason of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act are not subject to FICA or Medicare tax.
  • Tax credits: The bill currently provides refundable tax credits to employers equal to the mandated benefits to compensate employers for payments made to affected employees. The credit is applied against the employer’s share of FICA and Medicare tax liability for the quarter in which the sick leave pay is paid. If the total sick leave payments made by the employer exceed its share of such taxes, the difference is refundable.  There is no guidance on when the employer can reduce payroll tax deposits to take advantage of this credit.  
  • Self-employed taxpayers are also allowed a credit against self-employment tax. However, the credit is subject to the daily limit of 67% of average daily self-employment income, or $200. The Bill requires self-employed individuals to maintain documentation to establish self-employment eligibility as prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury.

Our Response to COVID-19



As you know, the presence of COVID-19, or the “coronavirus” in the the U.S. has created a public health emergency unlike anything most of us have ever seen. The virus is present in Arkansas, and the number of confirmed-positive cases in our state continues to rise as more testing is done. Worse still, some of us may unknowingly be positive for the virus because are without symptoms. Officials at every level, along with medical and public health professionals, have advised all of us take precautions to limit unnecessary contact with others and avoid large gatherings. This has been called “social distancing,” and the purpose is to reduce as much as possible the ability of the virus to pass from one person to another. Yes, it is very inconvenient. Yes, it may even seem like an overreaction. But right now, avoiding close contact with others may be the best tool we have to prevent the virus from spreading. We must take social distancing seriously.

However, even in a pandemic, daily life continues and legal issues can still arise. Just as you need to be able to get in touch with your doctor when you are sick, you need to be able to get in touch with your lawyer when you have a legal problem. That is why I am here to let you know that my staff and I will continue to be available and working during this emergency, with some changes. For the foreseeable future, we will be working remotely from our homes, and we will not be meeting with anyone in our office in Conway except in rare cases, and even then additional precautions will be taken.

Fortunately, my firm has always had the ability to work remotely, and my approach to law practice is taylor-made for the sort of circumstances in which we find ourselves. Instead of in-office meetings, we will be available by phone, email, and video conference by FaceTime, Google HangoutsSkype, Zoom, and other similar software. Our client portal, MyCase, allows our clients to securely communicate with our office and stay informed about their case. We also utilize electronic signatures, online payments, and cloud storage so that meeting with our clients in person is rarely required. 

My staff and I are also here to help anyone else in our community that needs it. If you have a legal problem, certainly contact us. But, if you need assistance in some other area and don’t know where to turn… contact us. We will do whatever we can to connect you to the right people or services that can help solve your issue. And, no — I’m not going to send you a bill for doing that. Because not every problem needs a lawyer, but we all need to pitch in whatever way we can right now. We all have responsibilities to the places where we live and to our friends and neighbors. If you need us, we’ll be here, just as I hope you will be there for those who might need you. There are a lot of intelligent, capable, committed, and brave people who are on the front lines of this epidemic, working for us. So do what you can do, from where you are. Ask for help when you are in need. And let’s all keep each other safe.

~ J. Tyler Henderson
    Attorney at Law

Kids Eat Free List

A running list of dining establishments in both Faulkner and Pulaski Counties that offer free or discounted dining for kids (usually with the purchase of a meal by an adult).  I update this as frequently as I find out about new places offering a "Kids Eat Free" promotion. Feel free to let me know about other establishments that offer this kid-friendly promotion.


EVERY NIGHT:
- JJ’s Bar & Grill (all locations)

- McAlister’s Deli ($0.99 kids meals)


MONDAY:
- American Pie Pizza (NLR @ Lakewood)

- TGI Friday’s

- Chili’s

- Shorty Small’s (Little Rock)


TUESDAY:

- Pizza Ranch (Conway)

- Moe’s Southwest Grill

- TGI Friday’s

- Chick-Fil-A (5:30-7:30pm)

- Ghengis Grill


WEDNESDAY:
- Logan’s Roadhouse (all locations)

- Franke’s Cafeteria (Conway - PM only)

- Foghorn’s (Conway)

- Firehouse Subs

- Jason’s Deli

- Buffalo Wild Wings ($1.99 with adult purchase)


THURSDAY:

- Red Robin (under 10 for $1.99)


FRIDAY:

- Shoney’s (Under 4)


SATURDAY:
- Franke‘s Cafeteria (Conway)

- Local Patio Grill (Conway, 5-8pm)


SUNDAY:
- Corky’s BBQ (WLR - ½ price after 5pm)

- Slim Chicken’s (10 and under)

- Hooter’s