DOL Issues FMLA Guidance for Coronavirus Public Health Emergency

March 17, 2020

On March 9, 2020, the DOL issued guidance on the application of the FMLA during a public health emergency. The release was in the form of questions and answers designed to assist employers with preparing workplaces for the coronavirus crisis.

As background, the FMLA requires covered employers to provide job-protected unpaid leave to employees for specified family and medical reasons. Under the FMLA, employees are entitled to the continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms as existed prior to the leave.

The guidance explains that an employee who is sick or whose family members are sick may be entitled to FMLA leave under certain circumstances. Such circumstances may include a viral illness, where complications arise that create a serious health condition. However, FMLA leave does not apply to employees who stay home from work to avoid exposure to a virus or to care for healthy children who have been dismissed from school as a preventive measure.

The release further emphasizes the importance of developing a plan of action for the workplace in the event of a pandemic outbreak, and communicating the plan to employees. Such plan may permit employees showing symptoms of pandemic disease to be sent home, or require certifications that inflicted employees are able to resume work. Any such policy would need to comply with applicable non-discrimination laws. Although paid leave is generally not required by the FMLA or other federal laws, an employer would need to take state and local laws and other obligations (e.g., employment contracts) into account.

Employers may find these questions and answers helpful in addressing various workplace situations and contingencies resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The complete release is accessible at the below link:

COVID-19 and Other Pandemics and the FMLA »