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Updated Guidance Regarding Emergency Leave and Amendment to Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Law in Response to COVID-19

March 31, 2020
Christopher A. Tinari, Michael R. Miller, Emily E. Mahler and Taylor Isaac
Posted in: Labor & Employment

UPDATES TO INTERPRETATIONS OF FFCRA

On March 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor published a series of questions and answers on its website, providing additional guidance for interpretation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).  The Q&A section can be accessed in its entirety here, and we recommend a review of all questions and answers.

Notably, the Department is taking a restrictive approach to eligibility for emergency paid sick leave and emergency family leave in light of the various shelter-in-place and shutdown of non-life sustaining businesses issued by Governor Wolf in Pennsylvania, Governor Murphy in New Jersey, and other similar orders in other states.  According to the newly issued guidance, if the employer is not open for business due to the aforementioned orders and/or business conditions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, an employee is not eligible for FFCRA leave, but may be eligible for unemployment compensation.  This approach applies to any worksite closing, either permanent or temporary, and notwithstanding the date of closure, as well as employees working reduced hours, and furloughed employees.

Accordingly, if your company has closed or suspended operations to comply with the government order, then there is no legal requirement to offer employees either of the two types of leave created by the FFCRA.

 

AMENDMENT TO THE PENNSYLVANIA UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION LAW

On March 27, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf signed into law an amendment to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation law which requires employers to notify employees of their potential eligibility to obtain unemployment compensation upon any type of separation, including layoff, termination, and otherwise.

While neither the Office of Unemployment Compensation nor Department of Labor has put out a model notice, the law goes into effect immediately and requires employers provide, at minimum, the following information: (1) availability of unemployment compensation benefits to workers who are unemployed and who meet the requirements of this act; (2) ability of an employee to file an unemployment compensation claim in the first week that employment stops or work hours are reduced; (3) availability of assistance or information about an unemployment compensation claim on the Department’s website or toll-free number (1-888-255-4728); and (4) that the employee will need to provide his/her full legal name, social security number, and, if not a legal resident of the United States, proof of legal authorization to work in the United States.

The good news for employers is that this new legislation also provides employers relief from unemployment compensation charges if the termination, layoff, or furlough was related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Margolis Edelstein continues to monitor legal changes related to the COVID-19 outbreak, and we are always available to answer any questions you may have regarding the effects of this global pandemic.