Know your rights: Paid sick days & paid leave during COVID-19

Is your keiki’s school doing online learning — and you have to work?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act created Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family Leave for use during COVID-19. Both programs can be used to care for children if child care or schools are closed or the schools moved to partial or total online instruction. You are not required to take all available leave at one time.

This federal program is in effect now through December 31, 2020.

Paid sick days

All workers at employers with fewer than 500 employees* have the right to paid sick days.

  • You can use this if you're: getting diagnosed or recovering from COVID-19, taking care of a sick or self-isolating family member**, or complying with public health recommendations.
    • This includes caring for children if child care or schools are closed or the schools moved to partial or total online instruction.
  • How long does this last? Full-time employees are entitled to 10 days (80 hours). Part-time workers are entitled to the average number of hours they work over a 2-week period.
  • How much will you receive? If you're caring for yourself, you can receive your regular pay, up to $511/day ($5,110 total). If you're caring for family, you can receive 2/3 of your regular pay, up to $200/day ($2,000 total).
  • Notes: These paid sick days are in addition to employer’s own leave. Employers can’t require you to find a replacement worker.

 

Paid leave

Workers on the job 30+ days at employers covered by the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA)*** have the right to paid leave.

  • You can use this if you're: Unable to work because your child’s school or place of care is closed due to public health emergency.
    • This includes caring for children if their school moved to partial or total online instruction.
  • How long does this last? You can receive 12 weeks paid leave. The first 10 days may be unpaid (but you can still receive pay through paid sick days).
  • How much will you receive? 2/3 of regular pay, up to $200 per day ($10,000 total).
  • Notes: Employers with less than 25 employees may be exempt from job protection requirements.

 

How to apply for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

  • After reading the descriptions above, if you believe you are eligible but want to make sure, use this web tool developed by the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • If you are eligible and need to request paid leave, start by talking to your management or a member of your human resources department as soon as possible. When you go to your employer, try to have these questions answered:
    1. Your reason for taking emergency leave under the FFCRA
    2. When you expect to start your emergency leave
    3. How long you expect to be on emergency leave
    4. How you want to take your emergency leave (continuously or intermittently)
  • Gather documentation supporting your need for leave (quarantine or isolation order, doctors note, proof of school or child care closure, etc.) to turn into your manager or human resources department.
  • If you believe that your employer is covered and is improperly refusing you paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act you can try to discuss your concerns with your employer, call 1-866-4US-WAGE (1-866-487-9243) or click here to appeal their leave denial directly through the U.S. Department of Labor.

Important considerations:

  • Employers may not discharge, discipline, or discriminate against you if you take paid sick leave under the FFCRA and/or file a complaint or institutes a proceeding under or related to the FFCRA.
  • Employers that fall under the FFCRA description will receive refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave wages to their employees for leave related to COVID-19.
  • Your employer cannot require you to look for or find a replacement to cover the hours you are on emergency paid sick time.
  • If you are enrolled in health coverage through your employer, your employer must continue your coverage during your emergency leave.
  • Emergency paid leave (both paid sick days and paid family leave) are available until December 31, 2020.

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My child’s school or place of care has moved to online instruction or to another model in which children are expected or required to complete assignments at home. Is it “closed”?

Yes. If the physical location where your child received instruction or care is now closed, the school or place of care is “closed” for purposes of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. This is true even if some or all instruction is being provided online or whether, through another format such as “distance learning,” your child is still expected or required to complete assignments. (via the US Department of Labor)

What if I am undocumented?

Since workers receive the payments from their employer, undocumented workers may be able to access this resource. Paid sick days and emergency paid leave laws are based on your employment relationship regardless of immigration status.

How do employers pay for this?

Employers can receive reimbursable tax credits to pay for COVID-related paid sick days or emergency leave. The IRS states that employers should have the employee’s name, the dates of leave, a statement on the COVID-related reason the employee is requesting leave, and a statement that the employee is unable to work or telework because of COVID

The employer will also need to provide additional documentation based on wage calculations and any health plan expenses they are asking to be reimbursed.

Q&As courtesy Family Values @ Work.

Possible exemptions include healthcare workers and emergency responders. Employers with under 50 employees can seek an exemption

** Family includes: Child, domestic partner, parent, spouse, individual who is pregnant, senior citizen, individual with a disability or who has access or functional needs who is a sibling, grandparent, or next of kin.

*** Possible exemptions include healthcare workers and emergency responders.

 

More resources

Paid Sick Days & Paid Leave through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Workers’ Rights: Questions and Answers
Coronavirus Paid Sick Days, Emergency Paid Leave, and Unemployment Insurance

Decision Chart
What are you eligible for?

US Department of Labor: Questions and Answers

Legal Aid Society of Hawaiʻi
Phone intake (weekdays)
9:00 AM - 11:30 AM
1:00 PM - 3:30 PM
808-536-4302 (Oahu)
​1-800-499-4302 (Neighbor Islands)

State of Hawaiʻi Dept. of Human Resources Development
Paid sick days
Paid leave

Hawaiʻi Department of Education
Emergency paid leave form
FAQs

Enforcement Questions
WHD-COVID19@dol.gov

Other Local COVID-19 Resources
Info on food, child care, face masks, and more.

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