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What Else Ends with 2020?

December 30, 2020

Michael J. Davey, Esquire

Employment Law Department

Eckell Sparks Law Firm

mdavey@eckellsparks.com

610-565-3700

No, not the world (at least I don’t think that’s this year… I’ll have to consult my Aztec calendar). But with the closing of the wonderful, smile-ridden, joyous year that was 2020, comes another ending—COVID-related leave under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (“FFCRA”).

I first wrote about the FFRCA and its emergency sick leave and extended family leave provisions here, way back in March when Congress passed the new law. As a quick recap, the FFCRA generally allowed covered employees to take up to 80 hours of paid sick leave because of a government-issued quarantined order, if they had to stay home to care for themselves or a family member who contracted COVID, or if they had to stay home to care for a child under 18 because of a COVID-related school closure. And (most relevant to the current developments) the FFCRA also amended the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow up to 10 weeks of paid leave for a parent who needed to stay home with a child who was attending school fully-virtual or on a hybrid model. Under the original law, those COVID-related leave laws were set to expire on December 31.

When the latest COVID-relief bill was being batted around the halls of Capitol Hill, there was a lot of hope / optimism /wishful thinking that Congress would extend the FFCRA beyond January 1.

It didn’t.

This past Sunday, President Trump signed the latest pandemic aid bill into law, which did not include any provision extending the mandatory leave provisions of the FFCRA.

What the new law did do, however, is allow employers who voluntarily provide FFCRA-qualifying leave after January 1 to take the same quarterly tax credits they have been eligible for since April, 2020. But after December 31, employers will no longer be required to provide FFCRA leave to their employees.

It’s possible that once the Biden Administration takes over, legislative priorities might change and Congress could try and reincarnate mandatory COVID-related employment leave. Until that point, however, I see a potential battle looming between employers and employees who have school-age children who will need to return to school on a fully-virtual or hybrid schedule after the winter holiday break. The employers (naturally) are going to want their employees to work. The employees (understandably) will need to have child care for their kids while not sacrificing their jobs. And currently, there are no state-law leave protections in Pennsylvania that address this situation. So how this tension resolves itself remains to be seen.

In the interim, Happy New Year! I would wish everyone a better year to come, but that’s a pretty low bar.

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