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Our Maryland Employment Lawyers Explain Your Leave Options During COVID-19

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to mount, Maryland employers and employees are trying to navigate an ever-changing legal landscape. One of the main challenges we are facing is what to do when employees get sick. In addition to sorting out work-from-home policies and quarantine measures, employers and employees need to understand how Maryland coronavirus paid leave comes into play. 

Understanding Leave, Paid Leave, and Maryland Sick Leave During the Pandemic

The terminology can get confusing for both employers and employees when discussing this subject. 

  • Leave is a generic term that can refer to both paid and unpaid leave. 
  • Sick leave is a period of time designated by an employer to be used by an employee for illness. It can be paid or unpaid and is often accrued. If you contract the coronavirus, your employer may require you to use all of your sick leave until it is exhausted and then you will go on unpaid leave. 
  • Paid leave is sometimes used to refer to any type of paid leave, such as sick leave and vacation leave. It is also sometimes used as a short-hand way to refer to paid sick leave. 

The central issues surrounding the pandemic and leave are: Are employers required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave? Also, when and how should employees use their sick leave? Our Maryland employment lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help you find the answers to your questions. Contact our office today to discuss your rights.

Look First to Your Company’s Leave Policy

Most businesses with multiple employees have a written leave policy that determines how and when leave may be taken. It will often cover how paid leave will be accrued, including sick leave and vacation time. If you’re wondering whether you can be paid if you contract the COVID-19 virus, your company’s policy may contain the answer. 

For employers, you should also review your company’s leave policy to see whether it makes sense in the context of the coronavirus. You may want to consider updating your leave policy to accommodate employees who contract the virus and to clarify how those situations will be handled. Here are some provisions you may want to consider implementing:

  • Unpaid absences during the pandemic will not be counted against your attendance or perceived negatively
  • For new employees, any restriction on accruing leave within an initial period of employment will be waived during the pandemic
  • Allow employees to use sick leave to take care of a loved one
  • Employees will be unpaid once all paid leave is exhausted, but they will keep their job
  • Clarify whether salaried employees must use all of their paid leave if sick

Of course, each situation is unique, and there will always be cases that don’t fit the policy. If you have questions about your situation, a Maryland employment lawyer can help you sort through the paid and sick leave issues you face during the pandemic. 

Understand the Law Related to Maryland Coronavirus Paid Leave and Sick Leave

The federal and state laws that govern employers and employees have seen numerous amendments and updates in the last few weeks. If those laws haven’t been updated, the governing agencies have implemented new guidelines or regulations concerning how those laws will be applied. While these updates are intended to help employees and protect businesses, it has been challenging for everyone to stay on top of the changes. In addition, it has also created a number of misconceptions about the protections afforded by these Acts.

For example, an employee who is experiencing coronavirus symptoms or is caring for a family member with coronavirus is entitled to leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, an employee who does not go to work in order to avoid exposure is not entitled to protection on the FMLA. 

We anticipate that laws concerning sick leave and paid leave will continue to evolve in Maryland as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Both employers and employees should do their best to keep abreast of any changes that may affect their policies and sick leave. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act

In response to the pandemic, Congress adopted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Applying to certain public employers and private employers of less than 500 people, the FFCRA provides two main benefits:

  • Employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at their regular rate of pay if they are unable to work due to being quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
  • Employees are entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds their regular pay if they are unable to work because their child is unable to go to school and there is no child care available.  

Most federal employees do not qualify for the benefits of the FFCRA, but are entitled to paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. For private employers, they may seek an exemption if the providing paid sick leave as required by the FFCRA would cause the business to become insolvent. 

It’s important to note that paid leave under the FFCRA is not available if you are able to telework. In order to qualify for paid sick leave, you must meet one of the following COVID-19 related-criteria:

  • You are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine order
  • Your doctor or other health care provider has advised you to self-quarantine
  • You are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a diagnosis
  • You are caring for someone who is under a quarantine order or has been ordered to self-quarantine
  • You are caring for a child whose school and child care is closed

An experienced Maryland employment lawyer can help businesses and employees understand how the FFCRA applies to them. 

Maryland Employment Lawyers Helping You Navigate the COVID-19 Pandemic 

These are challenging times for both employers and employees. The Maryland employment lawyers at the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford are committed to doing our part to helping you get through it. If you have questions about your company’s sick leave policies, call us at (410) 514-6099 or send us an email to talk to a member of our team about how we can help with your COVID-19 concerns.