RALEIGH – Effective today, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act becomes law, providing paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for employees at businesses who employ fewer then 500 people.

Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump, the act includes “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.”

Paid leave provisions are effective as of April 1 and apply to leave taken between April 1 and Dec. 31 of this year, according to the US Department of Labor.

There are, however, some exceptions. For example, if providing child care-related paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave at a business with fewer than 50 employees would jeopardize the viability of it as a going concern, a small business exemption will be available but details are not yet available.

To help employers and employees better understand the law’s requirement, the Labor Department has published detailed requirements and definitions in a question-and-answer format.

Job protection

One segment, for example, protects workers from losing their jobs if they take leave.

“In most instances, you are entitled to be restored to the same or an equivalent position upon return from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. Thus, your employer is prohibited from firing, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against you because you take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave. Nor can your employer fire, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against you because you filed any type of complaint or proceeding relating to these Acts, or have or intend to testify in any such proceeding,” the Labor Department says.

“However, you are not protected from employment actions, such as layoffs, that would have affected you regardless of whether you took leave. This means your employer can lay you off for legitimate business reasons, such as the closure of your worksite. Your employer must be able to demonstrate that you would have been laid off even if you had not taken leave.”

There are other exceptions, as noted in the Q&A.

This Q&A is available online.