Families First Coronavirus Response Act: A Guide for Wisconsin Employers

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The law covers all companies with up to 500 employees. The Act will be effective no later than 15 days after March 18, 2020.

What does the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Include?

  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Full-time employees of companies with less than 500 employees and government employees are provided up to 80 hours of emergency paid leave. Part-time employees are also eligible based on the number of hours they would normally work in a two-week period. This provision is applicable regardless of the duration of employment.

Employees eligible for the emergency paid leave in the qualifying circumstances below can receive the lesser of their regular pay or $511 per day (maximum of $5,110 per affected employee):

  • Employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • Employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.

Employees in the below qualifying circumstances can receive the lesser of 67% of their regular pay or $200 per day (maximum of $2,000 per affected employee):

  • Employee is caring for an individual who is subject to quarantine or self-quarantine as above.
  • Employee is caring for his or her child if the school or place of care of the child has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
  • NOTE: The employer of an employee who is a healthcare provider or an emergency responder may elect to exclude such employee from these provisions.

This paid leave is in addition to existing Paid Time Off (PTO), vacation, or other paid leave.

Employers cannot require any employee to use paid leave provided by employer before using emergency paid sick leave. Employers cannot change any paid leave policies to avoid the cost of emergency paid sick leave.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has the authority to allow employers of healthcare providers and emergency responders to opt out of the paid sick leave mandate.

  • Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

Employees eligible for emergency paid leave also may qualify for the new Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (FMLA) expansion of paid leave for 10 weeks. The first two weeks are unpaid under FMLA, but under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave those weeks would already be covered. This benefit applies only to employees who need to care for their own children if their school has been closed or if the childcare provider is unavailable.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: This provision even applies to employees of companies with less than 50 employees that are not otherwise required to offer FMLA benefits. The DOL has the authority to issue regulations exempting businesses with fewer than 50 employees from the expanded paid FMLA requirements -- when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. 

  • Tax Credits

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act currently provides refundable tax credits to employers. The refundable tax credits are 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.

For more information about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act  and how it impacts your Wisconsin business, contact the business and employment lawyers at Murphy Desmond via email at email@murphydesmond.com or call us at 608.257.7181.

Published March 19, 2020