Managing Coronavirus-Related Leave in California
Employers may see a spike in coronavirus-related leave requests as more employees are called back to work, and California HR professionals must note the interplay between federal, state and local leave laws.
Employers should note that the FFCRA [Families First Coronavirus Response Act] adds a new qualifying reason to the FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] (coronavirus-related childcare leave), and a pay component for that leave, but not additional time off.
"Your leave entitlement for emergency paid family leave under the FFCRA will depend in part on how much FMLA leave you have already taken," said Caroline Powell Donelan, an attorney with Blank Rome in Los Angeles. In contrast, emergency family leave taken under the FFCRA cannot run concurrently with an employee's leave entitlement under the CFRA [California Family Rights Act] because "caring for a child as the result the child's school closing or the closing or unavailability of the childcare provider" is not yet a qualifying reason for CFRA leave.
But CFRA leave may be available for other coronavirus-related reasons. "There is certainly overlap between COVID-19 related illness and leave entitlements under the CFRA," Donelan noted.
COVID-19 can qualify as "a serious health condition" sufficient to trigger CFRA protection if it results in inpatient care or continuing treatment or supervision by a health care provider, she explained. An illness like COVID-19 may also qualify as a serious health condition if it leads to other complications, such as pneumonia.
Under CFRA, employers can still require certification and documentation, but obtaining that information may be difficult as the pandemic persists.
"As an employer, your operating assumption should be that everyone in your workforce will take some kind of COVID-related leave this year, so proper planning is critical," Donelan said. HR leaders should properly equip their team and ensure messaging and administration are uniform and compliant.
"Now more than ever, employees are looking to their employers for clear and consistent information and guidance," Donelan said. "Be patient and transparent with your workforce to engender trust and loyalty as we all navigate this new normal together."
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“Managing Coronavirus-Related Leave in California,” by Lisa Nagele-Piazza was published in SHRM on June 9, 2020.