COVID-19 AND THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY

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What the Families First Coronavirus Response Act Means for Construction Businesses

On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law. This comes on the heels of the passing of an $8.3 billion emergency spending package and is likely to be followed by a number of new laws and provisions designed to provide relief from the rapid spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In addition to providing nutrition assistance, boosting unemployment aid, and making COVID-19 testing free to the public, the act has a number of provisions that greatly impact small businesses. 

In this article, an Orlando construction lawyer discusses new expanded family and medical leave requirements that apply to construction businesses. We will also detail the act’s new tax credits designed to provide relief to small businesses. At Cotney Construction Law, we understand this is a time of uncertainty for contractors and construction companies, which is why we’ve made it our mission to provide assistance to industry professionals during this time of need. If at any time your business encounters a problem during the COVID-19 outbreak, consult our Orlando construction lawyers for legal assistance. 

Expanded Family and Medical Leave 

The health and safety of your employees should be your number one priority. Under the FFCRA, employers with fewer than 500 employees are now required to provide two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to $511 per day) if they are unable to work as a result of quarantine and/or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical treatment. 

Related: Construction Companies Report Experiencing Supply Chain Disruptions Due to Coronavirus

Caring for a Loved One

Your employees are entitled to up to two weeks (80 hours) at two-thirds their normal rate of pay (up to $200 per day) if they need to care for someone who is under quarantine. Employees are also entitled to two weeks leave at this pay rate if they need to care for a child whose school or child care has been impacted by COVID-19. (Part-time employees are entitled to leave equal to the number of hours they work over a two week period). 

Caring for a Child

Additionally, employees who have been employed for at least 30 days are entitled to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical  leave at two-thirds their normal rate of pay if they must care for a child whose school or child care has been impacted by COVID-19 and are unable to work as a result. To summarize, all of your employees are entitled to two weeks paid leave at two-thirds their rate of pay to care for an individual or child, but employees who have been with your company longer than 30 days are entitled to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave to care for a child. 

Employers with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption if an employee’s leave due to school closings or impacted child care would threaten the viability of their business. Consult an Orlando construction lawyer for information on qualifications and exemptions. 

Related: COVID-19 Master OSHA, Construction and Employment Law FAQs

Employee Requirements 

Employees should provide notice of leave when possible. And once leave has commenced, an employer may require an employee to provide updates in order to continue receiving expanded family and medical leave. Employees are NOT required to find a replacement or use any other type of paid leave. 

Potential Penalties 

As stipulated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), “Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who takes expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA and files a complaint or institutes a proceeding under or related to the FFCRA.” Employers who violate this provision or fail to provide expanded family and medical leave as required by the FFCRA will be in violation of federal law and subject to penalties and enforcement. The DOL will observe a temporary period of non-enforcement for the first 30 days, so it’s important to consult an Orlando construction attorney to ensure that you are compliant before then. 

Related: COVID-19: Preventing Workplace Exposure in Construction

Employer Tax Credits 

Although necessary, the above provisions are set to put an additional strain on small construction businesses that may have already been struggling before the outbreak. For this reason, small employers can now take advantage of a new tax credit to offset the cost of payments made under the FFCRA. These tax credits will fully cover payments made towards expanded family and medical leave pursuant to the FFCRA and extend to payments made to maintain health insurance coverage. Payments made between the effective date which has yet to be chosen (but will be within 15 days of March 18) and Dec. 31, 2020, will be covered. 

Weathering the Storm 

It goes without saying that the next few months will be difficult for contractors within the construction industry. And the situation will only become more challenging if your workers and staff members start taking sick leave as they experience symptoms of COVID-19. During this time, you must never forget the phrase “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” With the passing of the FFCRA, employers can now grant emergency sick leave without worrying about the incredible cost. 

It may seem impossible now, but you and your business will get through this. Until then, our Orlando construction attorneys are here to help in any way we can. For assistance complying with the FFCRA and overcoming any obstacle you encounter in the coming months, partner with the team of attorneys from Cotney Construction Law.  

If you would like to speak with an Orlando construction attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.