Fact Finders: Understanding new labor and employment laws when reopening

Fact Finders: What are employees' rights once restaurants reopen

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - As businesses start to reopen in Arizona, owners need to understand how new labor and employment laws work to avoid claims for violating them.

The Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act may apply to employees and their ability to work. Both laws, in place since April 1, apply to employers with less than 500 employees.

“So, let’s say you have somebody who does not have health issues and they take the position of, you know, I’m still scared of COVID-19, I don’t want to come back. They really aren’t going to be protected," said Jessica Post.

Post is the director of employment and labor at Fennemore Craig.

For some employees who are asked to return to work, they are not going to want to return or be able to return for a variety of reasons, Post said. Employees can be protected under the new statues if they have an underlying health issue and have a doctor’s note to not return due to a risk of contracting COVID-19. It may also apply to an employee who now has to take care of a child who is not in school or daycare due to closures from the virus.

For a full list of qualifying reasons for leave, click here.

What are employees eligible for?

- Two weeks of paid sick leave at their regular pay if they can’t work because they are quarantined or have COVID-19 symptoms and are trying to get diagnosed. That is up to 80 hours.

- Sick leave at two-thirds of their regular pay if they have to care for someone who is quarantined or to care for a child whose school or daycare has closed because of the virus.

- If an employee has been on the job for at least 30 days, employers must provide up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave, at two-thirds the regular rate. This includes if the employee can’t work because he or she has to provide care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed because of COVID-19.

“I definitely think that employers who kind of sat out for the last four to six weeks haven’t been dealing with the law," Post said. “It would also be easy for somebody to make a request, like ‘hey, I have to care for my spouse who has COVID-19’ or whatever and the company to then make a mistake. ‘Well, we are just going to let you go,’ or some situation that would be covered."

In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act may also apply if an employee is concerned about returning to work because of a pre-existing medical condition.

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) administers and enforces the new law’s paid leave requirements. These provisions will apply from the effective date through Dec. 31, 2020.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.