If you’re a federal worker — and you’re not a health care worker or emergency responder or otherwise exempted — you are likely eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) of additional paid sick leave under the recently passed Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed in March in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
What are the Usual Sick Leave Rules?
Full-time federal employees earn ½ day (4 hours) of sick leave per pay period, or 104 hours (13 days) per year. Part-time employees earn 1 hour of sick leave for each 20 hours worked.
There is no limit to the amount of sick leave employees can earn and use for their own medical needs.
Full-time employees can also use 13 days of their sick leave for bereavement or to care for a family member. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, an employee is entitled to 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member who has a serious health condition. The maximum time an employee may use leave to care for family members is 12 weeks; all or part of those 12 weeks may consist of the remaining paid 13 days of family care; the remainder of the 12 weeks is unpaid.
Who can use the Coronavirus (EPSLA) Leave?
Most federal civil service employees qualify, including new hires. Part-time or intermittent employees also qualify (but for only a proportional amount of sick leave). However, furloughed, suspended or separated employees do not qualify.
When can you take EPSL?
The additional 80 hours of paid sick leave under the EPSLA is available only between April 1 and December 31, 2020; no EPSL may carry-over beyond December 31, 2020. However, you can request paid sick leave under EPSLA retroactively, to April 1, 2020.
There are five specific circumstances that may qualify you for leave under EPSLA.
- If you are required to quarantine or self-isolate by federal, state, or local law;
- If you have been told by a doctor or other health-care provider to self-quarantine because of concerns related to COVID-19;
- If you are trying to schedule an appointment to get tested because you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (but note, this leave would only cover the time taken to make or attend the appointment);
- If you are caring for a person who is either subject to a quarantine or self-isolation order (as in Number 1, above) or who has been advised by a health-care worker to quarantine (as in Number 2, above);
- If you are caring for you child because their school or daycare is closed.
It’s important to note the law authorizes a lower rate of pay if you are caring for someone other than yourself. If you are caring for a person who is quarantined (4, above) or your child (5, above), you will be reimbursed at only 2/3 of your regular rate of pay; if you are claiming the leave for yourself (1, 2, 3, above), you will be paid at your regular hourly rate.
Be prepared to document your reason for needing the leave. For example, you will need to provide the name of the government agency that issued the quarantine or isolation order (for 1 or 4, above) or the name of the health care provider who advised you (or the person you are caring for) to self-quarantine (for 2 or 4, above). You will need to give both the name of your child and of their school or daycare that is closed (for 5, above).
You may not be disciplined or otherwise harmed for seeking or taking paid leave under EPSLA.
If you have questions about your employment rights during the pandemic, please contact the employment lawyers of Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitch. We advocate for you.