Unemployment and Paid Leave During COVID-19

Unemployment and Paid Leave During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we as a community and as a society are all in this together. We are experiencing significant layoffs that might affect you or those you care about. You might have had your hours reduced as a result of the stay-at-home orders. You or a loved one might start to experience coronavirus symptoms that impact your ability to continue working.

Sweetser Law Office has heard from members of the community experiencing financial hardships as a result of the coronavirus. We are providing these resources to help anyone in need get headed in the right direction quickly, because we know how frightening financial insecurity can be.

If you lost your job due to COVID-19, Paid Family and Medical Leave and/or Unemployment Insurance may be able to help. You do not have to be employed to receive Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits but you cannot collect Unemployment Insurance and Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits at the same time. We encourage you to evaluate your eligibility for Paid Family and Medical Leave using this tool, and learn about Unemployment eligibility on the Employment Security Department website.

Unemployment or Reduced Pay Due to Coronavirus

If you have lost your job, the most important step is to apply for benefits at https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/UI-one-stop or call 800-318-6022.

Under the federal CARES Act, nearly everyone on unemployment will receive an additional $600 per week for up to four months. These payments should be provided retroactively from the time the legislation went into effect on March 29 when the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) went into effect.

Eligibility for unemployment benefits is expanded to include many Washingtonians currently not eligible, including many self-employed people and those that don’t have the typically required 680 hours. An additional $600 per week will be available to nearly everyone on unemployment from March 29 through the week ending July 25. Benefits will be extended by 13 weeks, for a maximum of 39 (which is about nine months). This includes people who were already on unemployment as well as those who are newly eligible.

  • If you are laid off because of slow business or a closure, you automatically qualify for unemployment benefits.
  • The state is waiving the normal “waiting week” so that workers can start receiving benefits as soon as possible.
  • If your employer closes operations temporarily, they may be able to obtain “standby” status and allow you to claim benefits for up to 8 weeks, possibly longer. Standby status is now available for part-time workers as well.

If you reside anywhere in Washington and are denied benefits, the Unemployment Law Project may be able to help you at 206-441-9178 or toll-free at 1(888) 441-9178.

Paid Sick, Family, or Medical Leave During Coronavirus

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions became effective on April 1, 2020. The provisions apply until December 31, 2020.

The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees (with certain exceptions and exemptions for small businesses of fewer than 50 employees). Unfortunately, the Act does not apply to large private corporations with over 500 employees.

Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leaveat 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 leaveat 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 to 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; and
  • Up to 12 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

If you and your employer agree that you will work your normal number of hours, but outside of your normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then you are able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents you from working that schedule.

The paid sick time provided under this Act does not carryover from one year to the next. Employees should provide notice of leave to an employer as soon as it becomes a foreseeable reality.

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