FFCRA

(Updated September 14, 2020)

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers including Texas A&M University System members to provide two forms of paid leave to assist employees impacted by COVID-19:  Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA).

FFCRA leave including EPSL and EFMLA is accessible  when  the employee is unable to perform the assigned duties due to certain, specified COVID-19-related reasons.

At Texas A&M University, employees will submit their requests for EPSL and/or EFMLA using the EPSL Request Form and/or EFLMA Request Form. These forms will be used to document all necessary information as required by FFCRA. Once the EPSL and/or EFMLA is approved, EPSL and/or EFMLA leave requests will need to be submitted in Workday. Note that these leave requests will route to both the manager and Absence Partner for review and approval.

 


FAQs - Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSL)

EPSL provides up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees who are unable to work (onsite or remotely) and who meet one of six qualifying reasons related to COVID-19.

Who is eligible?
All employees, including employees who do not currently earn leave, are eligible from their first day of employment. This includes temporary/casual and student employees.
What are the six qualifying reasons for EPSL?
EPSL is provided if an employee is unable to work onsite or remotely for one or more the following reasons:
  1. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19.
  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19. A self-imposed quarantine without medical advice does not qualify.
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for an individual (not specifically limited to family members) subject to or advised to quarantine or self-isolate.
  5. The employee is caring for the employee’s child whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions
  6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of the State.
Is a shelter in place order the same as a quarantine or isolation order for EPSL?
In accordance with recent Department of Labor (DOL) guidance, for purposes of the FFCRA, a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order includes stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders issued by any federal, state, or local government authority. Previously, it was a qualifying reason only if health care provider or a federal, state, and/or local government entity issued a quarantine or isolation order to an individual. Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-14 dated March 31, 2020, would qualify as a quarantine or isolation order under the FFCRA.
How many hours of emergency paid sick leave can be taken?
Full-time employees (those who are regularly scheduled to work 40 hours per week) are entitled to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave. Part-time employees are entitled to paid leave for the number of hours equal to the number of hours that such employee works, on average, over a two-week period.
How do I count hours worked by a part-time employee for purposes of emergency paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
(Source: Here) A part-time employee is entitled to leave for his or her average number of work hours in a two-week period. Therefore, you calculate hours of leave based on the number of hours the employee is normally scheduled to work. If the normal hours scheduled are unknown, or if the part-time employee’s schedule varies, you may use a six-month average to calculate the average daily hours. Such a part-time employee may take emergency paid sick leave for this number of hours per day for up to a two-week period, and may take expanded family and medical leave for the same number of hours per day up to ten weeks after that.

If this calculation cannot be made because the employee has not been employed for at least six months, use the number of hours that you and your employee agreed that the employee would work upon hiring. And if there is no such agreement, you may calculate the appropriate number of hours of leave based on the average hours per day the employee was scheduled to work over the entire term of his or her employment.

Is the emergency paid sick leave paid at the regular rate of pay?
The Texas A&M University System will pay employees at their regular rate of pay based on the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work. 
Can emergency paid sick leave be taken intermittently?
Yes, leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act can be taken on an intermittent basis.  If an employee is unable to work their normal schedule of hours due to one of the qualifying reasons, they may take emergency sick leave in less than full-day increments.

Example: John Doe regularly works 8 hours per day, but he is only be able to telework for 5 hours per day due to one of the qualifying reasons. John Doe would then be paid his regular salary for the 5 hours he teleworked and paid 3 hours of emergency paid sick leave.

Does emergency paid sick leave carry-over to next year?
The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and only apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Paid leave provided under the FFCRA does not carry over from year to year.
Can emergency paid sick leave be used for absences before April 1, 2020?
No. Emergency Paid Sick Leave cannot be used for absences prior to April 1, 2020.
Do employees need to use other forms of leave first?
No. Employees do not have to use other paid leaves before they use paid leave under the FFCRA. The employee may, however, choose to use other paid leave available prior to or instead of the leave provided under the FFCRA.

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FAQs - Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLA)

EFMLA expands the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to provide leave for employees who are unable to work, including those who are not able to work remotely, as a result of having to care for a minor child due to a COVID- 19 related closure of a school or childcare center.

Who is eligible?
Employees are eligible to take leave under EFMLA if they have been employed at least 30 calendar days. This includes employees in non-leave accruing positions, such as temporary/casual and student employees. Unlike the other provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there are no hours worked requirements for eligibility, and employees are not required to work the normal 12-month period for leave taken pursuant to the EFMLA.
How many weeks of leave does EFMLA cover?
The EFMLA amends and expands the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), on a temporary basis, to provide qualifying employees 12 weeks of leave (only weeks 3-12 are paid) if the employee is unable to work, including working remotely, due to the need to care for the employee’s child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency. A public health emergency is “an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a Federal, State, or local authority.”
May I take emergency paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for my child who is 18 years old or older?
(Source: Here)  It depends. Under the FFCRA, emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave include leave to care for one (or more) of your children when his or her school or place of care is closed or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. This leave may only be taken to care for your non-disabled child if he or she is under the age of 18. If your child is 18 years of age or older with a disability and cannot care for him or herself due to that disability, you may take emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for him or her if his or her school or place of care is closed or his or her child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, and you are unable to work or telework as a result.
In addition, emergency paid sick leave is available to care for an individual who is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19. If you have a need to care for your child age 18 or older who needs care for these circumstances, you may take emergency paid sick leave if you are unable to work or telework as a result of providing care. But in no event may your total emergency paid sick leave exceed two weeks.
Is EFMLA leave paid or unpaid?
The first 10 workdays of EFMLA may be unpaid, although an employee can choose to substitute accrued vacation or sick leave during this time or utilize their two weeks (up to 80 hours) of emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA. After the first 10 workdays, paid leave will be provided for the remaining leave taken under the EFMLA. This includes leave taken by employees who do not currently earn leave.
The EFMLA requires employees to be paid based on the hours they would have been normally scheduled to work.
Can employees use Emergency Paid Sick Leave to cover the first 10 days of unpaid EFMLA leave?
Yes. Depending on the REASON for emergency paid sick leave, this leave may:
  • Stand alone; or
  • run concurrently with the first two weeks of expanded family and medical leave, which may otherwise be unpaid, then those two weeks do count towards the 12 workweeks of FMLA in the 12-month period; or
  • run concurrently with REGULAR family and medical leave, which may otherwise be unpaid, then those two weeks do count towards the 12 workweeks of FMLA in the 12-month period.
If an employee chooses to take accrued sick leave during the first ten days of EFMLA, will they be required to submit medical documentation that they were sick?
For purposes of FFCRA, an employee who requests accrued sick leave for any and all of the first 10 days of EFMLA coverage is not required to submit medical documentation that they or a member of their family were sick. The requirements of System Regulation 31.03.02, Sections 4.2 and 4.3, are waived specifically for this circumstance.
Is EFMLA leave paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay?
The Texas A&M University System will pay employees at their regular rate of pay based on the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled to work.
Can employees combine EFMLA paid leave with other types of leave?
Yes. Employees can use any accrued leave to augment leave taken under EFMLA.
Are employees required to take other types of leave before taking EFMLA?
No. Employees are not required to take other leave prior to taking EFMLA leave. Employees may also choose to use other types of leave available prior to taking Emergency Paid Sick leave or EFMLA leave.
Can EFMLA be taken intermittently?
Yes, leave under the EFMLA can be taken on an intermittent basis.
Does EFMLA carry-over to next year?
The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and only apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. Paid leave provided under the FFCRA does not carry over from year to year.
(Added 9-14-2020) NEW - Does the EFMLA reset at the beginning of the fiscal year?
EFMLA does not reset at the beginning of the fiscal year (September 1 to August 31). Eligible employees can only take up to a total of 12 weeks of EFMLA between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020 (as afforded by FFCRA).

As a reminder, eligible employees are limited to a combined total of twelve weeks of leave taken under the EFMLA and FMLA during the fiscal year. If an employee has already taken 12 workweeks of FMLA leave during the applicable 12-month period (fiscal year), they may not take additional leave under the EFMLA.

As of September 1, 2020, employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of FMLA until August 31, 2021. However, they are only eligible for any unused EFMLA up to 12 weeks through December 31, 2020.

Can EFMLA be used for absences before April 1, 2020?

 

No. EFMLA cannot be used for absences prior to April 1, 2020.

 

Does EFMLA protect my job?

 

EFMLA provides the same job protections as FMLA.

 

Is the 12 workweeks of leave provided under the EFMLA included in the 12 workweeks of leave provided under the FMLA?

 

Yes. Employees are limited to a combined total of twelve weeks of leave taken under the EFMLA and FMLA during the fiscal year (which runs September to August). If an employee has already taken 12 workweeks of FMLA leave during the applicable 12-month period, they may not take additional leave under the EFMLA.

 

How is 30 calendar days calculated for purposes of determining eligibility for EFMLA?

 

An employee is considered to have been employed for 30 calendar days if the employee has been on payroll with any state agency for the 30 calendar days immediately prior to the day the leave would begin. This does not necessarily mean that the employee has actually worked 30 calendar days. For example, the employee was placed on payroll beginning March 2, 2020, eligibility begins 30 calendar days form March 2, 2020, even if they only worked Monday through Friday of this period.

 

If the employee worked as a temporary/casual or student employee and then transferred to a budgeted position, the total time worked in both positions should be added to determine if the 30-day timeframe has been met.

 

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General FAQs about FFCRA

(Added 9-14-2020) NEW - If a child’s school or daycare has reopened but the parent (employee) chooses remote learning instead of onsite learning, are they still eligible for EPSL and/or EFMLA to care for their child?
No. Employees who choose remote learning versus onsite (in-person) learning are not eligible for EPSL and/or EFMLA, if their child’s school has reopened. If the option for onsite learning is available (school is open), a qualifying reason under FFCRA has not been met.
(Added 6-01-2020) My employees have been teleworking productively since mid-March without any issues. Now, several employees claim they need to take paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to care for their children, whose school is closed because of COVID-19, even though these employees have been teleworking with their children at home for four weeks. Can I ask my employees why they are now unable to work or if they have pursued alternative child care arrangements?
(Source: Here) As a reminder, TAMU employees are required provide (1) written notice of the need for FFCRA leave by completing the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Request Form and/or Emergency Family and Medical Leave Request Form and (2) documentation supporting the need for FFCRA leave. While you may ask the employee to note any changed circumstances in his or her statement as part of explaining why the employee is unable to work, you should exercise caution in doing so, lest it increase the likelihood that any decision denying leave based on that information is a prohibited act. The fact that your employee has been teleworking despite having his or her children at home does not mean that the employee cannot now take leave to care for his or her children whose schools are closed for a COVID-19 related reason. For example, your employee may not have been able to care effectively for the children while teleworking or, perhaps, your employee may have made the decision to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for the children so that the employee’s spouse, who is not eligible for any type of paid leave, could work or telework. These (and other) reasons are legitimate and do not afford a basis for denying paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for a child whose school is closed for a COVID-19 related reason. This does not prohibit you from disciplining an employee who unlawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave based on misrepresentations, including, for example, to care for the employee’s children when the employee, in fact, has no children and is not taking care of a child. If you suspect your employee is unlawfully taking FFCRA leave, please contact HROE Employee Relations (employee-relations@tamu.edu) for further assistance.
(Added 6-01-2020) I took paid sick leave and am now taking expanded family and medical leave to care for my children whose school is closed for a COVID-19 related reason. After completing distance learning, the children’s school closed for summer vacation. May I take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave to care for my children because their school is closed for summer vacation?
(Source: Here) No. Paid emergency sick leave and emergency family and medical leave are not available for this qualifying reason if the school or child care provider is closed for summer vacation, or any other reason that is not related to COVID-19. However, the employee may be able to take leave if his or her child’s care provider during the summer—a camp or other programs in which the employee’s child is enrolled—is closed or unavailable for a COVID-19 related reason.
Is an employee eligible for Texas Unemployment Compensation Benefits and paid leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act simultaneously?
No. Employees who have received or are in the process of receiving unemployment compensation benefits may not use FFCRA leave to be paid for the same work hours.
If an employee is currently receiving unemployment compensation benefits, what happens if they reject a call from the University to return to work?
All employees, particularly student workers, should be prepared to return to campus to work when their hiring department needs them to return. If an employee (including student workers), whom the university calls back to work, states that they do not want to return to work, they may no longer be eligible to receive Texas Unemployment Compensation Benefits. Refusal to return to work could result in a large financial liability to the individual if a post-payment audit were to take place. If it is found that the employee was ineligible to receive the unemployment benefits, or was overpaid, they may be in a situation of owing a large sum of money back to the State. Employees or supervisors with questions regarding unemployment benefits should contact employee-relations@tamu.edu for Texas A&M or hschr@tamu.edu for HSC departments.
For the purpose of determining FFCRA eligibility, was Texas A&M University considered closed for business?
No. Although Governor Abbott’s Executive Order called for Texas residents to “shelter in place,” Texas A&M University remained open to faculty, staff, and students with a limited number of employees continuing to work on-site to support essential functions while other employees continued to work remotely.

According to the DOL guidance, for the purposes of the FFCRA, a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order includes stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders issued by any federal, state, or local government authority. However, for such an order to qualify an employee for leave, being subject to the order must be the reason they are unable to perform their job on-site or remotely.

What documentation is required by an employee to substantiate the qualifying reason for leave under the FFCRA?
Before entering leave in Workday, employees should provide written notice of the need for leave using the following form(s) prior to entering the time off in Workday.
In addition, the usual FMLA medical certification requirements continue to apply for reasons such as the employee’s own serious health condition or caring for a family member with a serious health condition.
However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has advised that, because of the pandemic, employees may not be able to provide certification of their medical condition or their family members’ medical condition quickly. In such cases, managers should be flexible and may accept other types of documentation of the condition, such as health insurance payments (e.g., co-pays) or prescriptions filled.
What does it mean to be unable to work, including remotely, for COVID-19 related reasons?
(Sources: Here) You are unable to work if one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons set forth in the FFCRA prevents you from being able to perform your usual work, either under normal circumstances at your normal worksite or remotely.
If I am or become unable to work remotely, am I entitled to emergency paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
(Source: Here) If you are permitted to perform certain tasks or work a certain number of hours from home or at a location other than your normal workplace—and you are unable to perform those tasks or work the required hours because of one of the qualifying reasons for emergency paid sick leave, then you are entitled to take emergency paid sick leave.
Similarly, if you are unable to perform those tasks because you need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, then you are entitled to take expanded family and medical leave. Of course, to the extent you are able to work remotely while caring for your child, emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave is not available.
Is Texas A&M University a covered employer under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?
Yes. According guidance from the Department of Labor (DOL), Texas A&M System members are covered employers under the Act, regardless of the number of employees they employ because they are a public agencies.
Is Texas A&M University required to post a notice of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?
Yes. According to DOL guidance, covered employers must post a notice of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. An employer may satisfy this requirement by emailing or direct mailing this notice to employees, or posting this notice on an employee information internal or external website.

The notice has been added to the HROE website on the required posters page and an employee email notification will be sent.

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Additional FAQs for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor website.