Coronavirus FAQ’s

Employment Attorneys Serving Northern and Central New Jersey

1. Can I be fired if my employer is not following the rules and I report it to my supervisor or the appropriate agency?

No. Under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, you cannot be retaliated against for disclosing to a supervisor or a public agency or refusing to participate in an act of the employer which you reasonably believe to be a violation of a law, rule regulation or a clear mandate of public policy involving health or safety.

2. If my employer has 500 or more employees, do the Coronovirus Acts protecting employees apply to me?

No. Private sector employers are only required to comply with the Acts if they have fewer than 500 employees.

3. When calculating pay due to employees, must overtime hours be included?

Yes. However, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires that paid sick leave be paid only up to 80 hours over a two-week period.

4. As an employee, how much will I be paid while taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA”)?

It depends on your normal schedule as well as why you are taking leave.
If you are taking paid sick leave because you are unable to work or telework because you (1) are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; (2) have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; or (3) are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis, you will receive for each applicable hour the greater of:

  • your regular rate of pay,
  • the federal minimum wage in effect under the FLSA, or
  • the applicable State or local minimum wage.

In these circumstances, you are entitled to a maximum of $511 per day, or $5,110 total over the entire paid sick leave period.
If you are taking paid sick leave because you are: (1) caring for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or an individual who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; (2) caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; or (3) experiencing any other substantially-similar condition that may arise, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, you are entitled to compensation at 2/3 of the greater of the amounts above.
Under these circumstances, you are subject to a maximum of $200 per day, or $2,000 over the entire two week period.

5. f I have PTO under my employer’s policy which would pay me more than expanded family and medical leave, can I take that first?

If you are taking expanded family and medical leave, you may take paid sick leave for the first two weeks of that leave period, or you may substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave you have under your employer’s policy. For the following ten weeks, you will be paid for your leave at an amount no less than 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would be normally scheduled to work. If you take paid sick leave during the first two weeks of unpaid expanded family and medical leave, you will not receive more than $200 per day or $12,000 for the twelve weeks that include both paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave when you are on leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. If you take employer-provided accrued leave during those first two weeks, you are entitled to the full amount for such accrued leave, even if that is greater than $200 per day.

6. What is my regular rate of pay for purposes of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”)?

For purposes of the FFCRA, the regular rate of pay used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate over a period of up to six months prior to the date on which you take leave. If you have not worked for your current employer for six months, the regular rate used to calculate your paid leave is the average of your regular rate of pay for each week you have worked for your current employer. If you are paid with commissions, tips, or piece rates, these amounts will be incorporated into the above calculation to the same extent they are included in the calculation of the regular rate under the FLSA. You can also compute this amount for each employee by adding all compensation that is part of the regular rate over the above period and divide that sum by all hours actually worked in the same period.

7. If I am home with my child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, do I get paid sick leave, expanded family and medical leave, or both—how do they interact?

You may be eligible for both types of leave, but only for a total of twelve weeks of paid leave. The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act provides for an initial two weeks of paid leave. This period thus covers the first ten workdays of expanded family and medical leave, which are otherwise unpaid under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act unless you elect to use existing vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave under your employer’s policy. After the first ten workdays have elapsed, you will receive 2/3 of your regular rate of pay for the hours you would have been scheduled to work in the subsequent ten weeks under the Emergency and Family Medical Leave Expansion Act. Please note that you can only receive the additional ten weeks of expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act for leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons.

8. How do I know whether I have “been employed for at least 30 calendar days by the employer” for purposes of expanded family and medical leave?

You are considered to have been employed by your employer for at least 30 calendar days if your employer had you on its payroll for the 30 calendar days immediately prior to the day your leave would begin. For example, if you want to take leave on April 1, 2020, you would need to have been on your employer’s payroll as of March 2, 2020. If you have been working for a company as a temporary employee, and the company subsequently hires you on a full-time basis, you may count any days you previously worked as a temporary employee toward this 30-day eligibility period.

9. What does it mean to be unable to work, including telework for COVID-19 related reasons?

You are unable to work if your employer has work for you and one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA (see FAQ #3 above) prevents you from being able to perform that work, either under normal circumstances at your normal worksite or by means of telework. If you and your employer agree that you will work your normal number of hours, but outside of your normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then you are able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working that schedule.

10. If my employer closed my worksite before April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), can I still get paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No.

11. If my employer closes my worksite while I am on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, what happens?

If your employer closes while you are on paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, your employer must pay for any paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave you used before the employer closed. As of the date your employer closes your worksite, you are no longer entitled to paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, but you may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. This is true whether your employer closes your worksite for lack of business or because the employer was required to close pursuant to a Federal, State or local directive. You should contact your State workforce agency or State unemployment insurance office for specific questions about your eligibility.

12. If my employer closes my worksite on or after April 1, 2020 (the effective date of the FFCRA), but tells me that it will reopen at some time in the future, can I receive paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?

No, not while your worksite is closed.

13. May I collect unemployment insurance benefits for time in which I receive pay for paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?

No.

14. If I elect to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, must my employer continue my health coverage?

If your employer provides group health coverage that you’ve elected, you are entitled to continued group health coverage during your expanded family and medical leave on the same terms as if you continued to work. If you are enrolled in family coverage, your employer must maintain coverage during your expanded family and medical leave. You generally must continue to make any normal contributions to the cost of your health coverage.

15. Do I have a right to return to work if I am taking paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act or the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

Generally, yes.
However, you are not protected from employment actions, such as layoffs, that would have affected you regardless of whether you took leave. This means your employer can lay you off for legitimate business reasons, such as the closure of your worksite. Your employer must be able to demonstrate that you would have been laid off even if you had not taken leave.
Your employer may also refuse to return you to work in your same position if you are a highly compensated “key” employee as defined under the FMLA, or if your employer has fewer than 25 employees, and you took leave to care for your own son or daughter whose school or place of care was closed, or whose child care provider was unavailable, and all four of the following hardship conditions exist:

  • your position no longer exists due to economic or operating conditions that affect employment and due to COVID-19 related reasons during the period of your leave;
  • your employer made reasonable efforts to restore you to the same or an equivalent position;
  • your employer makes reasonable efforts to contact you if an equivalent position becomes available; and
  • your employer continues to make reasonable efforts to contact you for one year beginning either on the date the leave related to COVID-19 reasons concludes or the date 12 weeks after your leave began, whichever is earlier.

16. If I take paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, does that count against other types of paid sick leave to which I am entitled under New Jersey or local law, or my employer’s policy?

No. Paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act is in addition to other leave provided under Federal, State, or local law; an applicable collective bargaining agreement; or your employer’s existing company policy.

17. May I use paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave together for any COVID-19 related reasons?

No. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act applies only when you are on leave to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. However, you can take paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act for numerous other reasons.

18. When does the small business exemption apply to exclude a small business from the provisions of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?

An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees (small business) is exempt from providing (a) paid sick leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons and (b) expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern.

When am I eligible for paid sick leave to self-quarantine?

You are eligible for paid sick leave if a health care provider directs or advises you to stay home or otherwise quarantine yourself because the health care provider believes that you may have COVID-19 or are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and quarantining yourself based upon that advice prevents you from working (or teleworking).  However, you cannot make that decision on your own without first consulting a health care provider and still get paid sick leave.

19. I am an employee. I become ill with COVID-19 symptoms, decide to quarantine myself for two weeks, and then return to work. I do not seek a medical diagnosis or the advice of a health care provider. Can I get paid for those two weeks under the FFCRA?

Generally no. If you become ill with COVID-19 symptoms, you may take paid sick leave under the FFCRA only to seek a medical diagnosis or if a health care provider otherwise advises you to self-quarantine. If you test positive for the virus associated with COVID-19 or are advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, you may continue to take paid sick leave. You may not take paid sick leave under the FFCRA if you unilaterally decide to self-quarantine for an illness without medical advice, even if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

20. Can I take paid sick leave to care for any individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or who has been advised to self-quarantine?

No. You may take paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for an immediate family member or someone who regularly resides in your home. You may also take paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for someone where your relationship creates an expectation that you care for the person in a quarantine or self-quarantine situation, and that individual depends on you for care during the quarantine or self-quarantine.

However, you may not take paid sick leave under the FFCRA to care for someone with whom you have no relationship.

21. When am I eligible for paid sick leave to care for someone who is self-quarantining?

You may take paid sick leave to care for a self-quarantining individual if a health care provider has advised that individual to stay home or otherwise quarantine him or herself because he or she may have COVID-19 or is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and provision of care to that individual prevents you from working (or teleworking).

22. May I take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave if I am receiving workers’ compensation or temporary disability benefits through an employer or state-provided plan?

In general, no, unless you were able to return to light duty before taking leave. However, if you were able to return to light duty and a qualifying reason as described in FAQ#3, 13, 17 and 20 above and prevents you from working, you may take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, as the situation warrants.