Paid leave rights once again front and center as COVID variants spike

Blog Post

As students across the country are returning to the classroom, the spike in the COVID Delta variant is reigniting the conversation about a need for paid sick leave for working parents who are forced to deal with school closures.

Working parents face a very uncertain future with regard to their leave rights as COVID and its variants pose a real threat to require home schooled learning yet again, as recently reported by Bloomberg Law. In fact, at the time of publishing, several states are already implementing school shut-downs related to COVID and its variants, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia.

The paid leave rights of parents afforded under the federally enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), expired on December 31, 2020. Since that time, a handful of states have passed paid leave rights, but not all guarantee coverage for school closures. 

Given the circumstances, time off for working parents remains a contentious issue. Approximately 100 lawsuits under the FFCRA are related to parent caregivers that were required to remain home because their children’s schools and/or day care centers were closed. This figure represents a quarter of the lawsuits filed under the FFRCA, which also protected workers affected directly by COVID. 

Pending Legislation

With working parents continuing to struggle, there is movement in Congress for more sweeping and permanent paid leave for working parents affected by school and day care closures. The current temperature is that a permanent federal solution does not have the support to pass. However, such a measure is deemed to have full Democratic support, so the ultimate disposition is yet undecided.

Despite possible federal action, several states have taken it upon themselves to require such paid family leave time. The nature of the laws vary, with states such as New York and Colorado, having put emergency paid leave legislation on their books. The challenge for multi-state employers of course is to be aware of the rights afforded such employees in their respective jurisdictions to ensure compliance.

What employers need to know

Employers need to remain vigilant about both pending federal and state legislation with regards to paid leave, not only in regards to child care related issues, but also direct employee related rights regarding COVID and its variants.

The Labor and Employment team at McDonald Hopkins will continue to monitor such developments and is available for individual advice and counsel. 

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