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Many schools across the US are not welcoming students back for full-time in-person learning in the fall. On August 5, 2020, after Chicago Public Schools announced it would begin the academic year remotely in September, New York City became the last remaining major school system in the country to even try to offer in-person classes this fall. Proposed plans for schools that aren’t fully reopening range from full remote learning to hybrid models, where students are in school only half a day or several days a week coupled with a remote learning component from home. Either way, employers are likely to find themselves inundated with requests from parents of school-age children for continued work from home arrangements or other work-schedule flexibility. In our Q&A below, we have highlighted issues employers may want to keep in mind as employees with school-age children try to navigate a school year with its own “novel” aspects.

1.  Are employers legally obligated to provide any sort of leave for employees who have to stay home with their children if schools don’t fully reopen?

It depends. If the employer is a “covered employer” under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employees may be eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA. The FFCRA was enacted to provide employees with COVID-19 related paid leave. Covered employers under the FFCRA (generally, private sector employers who have fewer than 500 employees at the time the leave request is made) are required to provide eligible employees with partially paid child care leave for certain COVID-19-related reasons, including if the child’s school, place of care or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Does virtual learning count as a “closed or unavailable” school for purposes of the FFCRA? Though the DOL guidance and FFCRA regulations have not spoken directly on this topic, the DOL’s early Q&A guidance on the FFCRA indicates that a school is “closed” for purposes of EPSLA or EFMLEA leave when the “physical location where [the] child received instruction or care is now closed.” The focus on “physical location” signals that if the school building is closed to students and students are required to learn remotely, the school is “closed” for purposes of the FFCRA.

The FFCRA imposes two federal leave obligations on employers – the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA).

  • Under the EPSLA:
    • An eligible employee may take up to two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work or telework for reasons including to care for a child whose school, place of care or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. Pay is capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate.
  • Under the EFMLEA:
    • An eligible employee may take up to twelve weeks of “expanded” FMLA leave when unable to work or telework due to a need for leave to care for a child whose school, place of care or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
    • The first two weeks of EFMLEA leave are unpaid. An eligible employee may use paid sick leave under the EPSLA or other accrued paid leave under the employer’s leave policies to receive pay for those two weeks.
    • An eligible employee may take up to an additional 10 weeks of paid EFMLEA leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay, based on the number of hours the employee would be normally scheduled to work those days. Pay is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.

In addition, state and local leave laws may apply, many of which either provide additional leave or state that providing care for a child whose school is closed or unavailable for COVID-19 reasons is a protected reason for an employee to take leave.


Continue Reading Back to School or Back to Home? Handling Leave Requests from Employees with School-Age Children

The confusion over evolving state and local quarantine orders can be a challenge for employers with employees visiting hotspot areas. This week we discuss what employers can do when employees travel to a COVID-19 hotspot and have to quarantine when they arrive or return.

Please click here to watch this week’s video chat.

This article was originally published on Law360.com

Developed countries across the globe are increasingly adopting and augmenting paid family leave laws, seeing such laws as a “win-win” for both employers and employees. For employees, paid family leave laws allow new parents to bond with and care for their children in the stressful and crucial initial

[With special thanks to our summer associate Lennox Mark for his contribution to this post.]

Since 2000, June has been LGBTQ Pride Month in the United States. “Pride” as it has come to be known started as a way to commemorate the Stonewall riots that occurred at the end of June in 1969. It has since morphed into a month-long celebration of inclusiveness and remembrance of the struggles faced by members of this community. Many other countries and cities around the world honor and celebrate the LGBTQ community at different times throughout the year.

As we look back at the events of the last month and in honor of continuing the conversation around US Pride, we review some of the recent strides made for equality and other potentially impactful legal developments for the LGBTQ community, including those that US and OUS employers should know about.


Continue Reading Advancing LGBTQ Rights At Home And Abroad

[With special thanks to our summer associate Lennox Mark for his contribution to this post.]

From coast to coast, state and local governments are debating and enacting legislation to broaden workplace protections for employee dress and grooming practices. And not surprisingly, employee complaints regarding employer grooming policies — that such policies contribute to discrimination by unduly burdening certain racial characteristics, religious beliefs or health conditions — are on the rise.

In February 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a statement of legal enforcement guidance expanding the definition of prohibited race discrimination to include discrimination based on hairstyle. The Commission explained that workplace “grooming or appearance policies that ban, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hairstyles or hairstyles associated with Black people generally violate [local law].” By expressly including hairstyle as a protected characteristic, the Commission effectively created a new legal claim for Black employees who suffer adverse employment actions because their natural hairstyles fail to comport with previously accepted workplace rules.


Continue Reading Employers, Are Your Grooming Policies Discriminatory?

Today is International Women’s Day. The day marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

In our global gender pay gap thought leadership series, we’ve highlighted the numerous ways governments around the world are taking actions aimed at closing the gap. In the US, the movement to prohibit the practice of inquiring about an applicant’s salary history continues to gain steam. Cities and states across the country have enacted legislation making it unlawful to inquire about prospective employees’ salary history. Proponents of salary history bans argue that using past compensation in future employment decisions perpetuates existing pay disparities among women and minorities.


Continue Reading Salary History Bans Sweep The US, While Most Global Efforts To Close The Gap Target Transparency

In a narrow ruling on June 4, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a couple celebrating a same-sex wedding on the basis of his religious opposition to same-sex marriages. (Same-sex marriages were not legal in Colorado at the time.) After the baker rebuffed the couple in 2012, they filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission pursuant to the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (CADA) which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in a “place of business engaged in any sales to the public and any place offering services . . . to the public.”


Continue Reading SCOTUS Narrowly Rules In Favor Of Baker In Same-Sex Confectionery Controversy In Fact-Specific Decision

Happy Mother’s Day! 

May 13 is Mother’s Day in the US, Australia and Canada. As such, it feels apropos to recognize the latest initiatives in the US and around the world aimed at increasing opportunities at work for working mothers (and caregivers more generally). Government-mandated maternity, paternity and parental leave and benefits, as well as