As we approach the end of August, many schools around the country are beginning to open. Some school districts have decided to remain fully remote or have developed a “hybrid” option involving both in-person and remote education. This situation has left many working parents in a dilemma as they try to ensure their children are learning well while also maintaining their regular work schedule.
Recognizing that many school districts had to cease in-person learning, the Federal government enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) on April 1, 2020. Under the FFCRA, private employers with fewer than 500 employees or covered public agencies must abide by two key provisions of the FFCRA, namely the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).
Under the EPSLA, employees may take up to two (2) weeks of paid leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed. Under EFMLEA, employees may take up to an additional ten (10) weeks to care for their child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed. Employees seeking leave to care for a child may be eligible for compensation at 2/3 their regular rate of pay or applicable minimum wage, whichever is higher, for a maximum of $200 per day, or $12,000 total over the entire twelve-week paid sick leave period.
Many employers have been accommodating during the COVID-19 pandemic and have allowed employees to adjust their schedule outside of normal business hours (for instance, working early in the morning or late at night). In these circumstances, leave options under the FFCRA would not apply.
Despite the flexibility some employers provide, many employees still struggle with being able to assist their children with remote schooling while completing their own work responsibilities. If employees simply cannot work in such situations, they may avail themselves of the leave benefits under the EPSLA and EFMLEA.
With hybrid instruction models, employees may seek to take leave intermittently. A recent decision from the Southern District of New York ruled that intermittent leave for child care purposes was appropriate when a child’s school or place of care is closed, and further stated that employees do not need employer consent for such intermittent leave.
Thus, under the FFCRA, parents have been provided with at least some options to help them as they juggle remote education and work responsibilities. For more information on the expansion of work leave under the FFCRA, see our previous posts here and here.