Can I take off from work if I or a family member gets the coronavirus?

If you or a family member have the coronavirus, there is a federal law called the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  that allows a qualified employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period if they or an immediate family member requires care for a “serious health condition.” The law also entitles a qualified employee to continued health insurance benefits and requires their employer to offer them the same or equivalent position when they return. Qualified employees are those who have worked for at least one year, over 1,250 hours in the prior year, and whose employer has at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows employees who work for employers of less than 500 employees to take up to 80 hours of emergency sick leave. An employee may take emergency sick leave under the FFCRA if they are:

  1. subject to quarantine or isolation order or caring for someone who is subject to a quarantine or self-isolation order;
  2. advised be a health care provider to self-quarantine due to coronavirus concerns or caring for someone who is advised to self-quarantine;
  3. experiencing symptoms of coronavirus and are seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. caring for their child if, because of coronavirus protections, their school or day care has been closed or their childcare provider is unavailable; or
  5. experiencing similar conditions, as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

FMLA also allows for twelve weeks of leave for:

  • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;

 If I have the coronavirus, do I get paid time off?

Some companies may already provide paid leave for those who are forced to take time off in connection with an illness. For those employers, the company policy generally will control the terms of the leave.

The FFCRA allows employees of employers of less than 500 employees to take up to 80 hours of emergency sick leave for qualified reasons, as follows:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

In light of all these detailed requirements, it is important to speak with an employment law attorney familiar with leave laws and your specific situation.