March 16, 2020

What Small Businesses Need To Know About the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

harrell employment lawyer

What Small Businesses Need To Know About the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Daniel E. Harrell is a Shareholder and Chair of the firm’s General Litigation department.
Daniel’s practice focuses primarily on labor and employment litigation and counseling, and non-compete and restrictive covenant litigation.

PENSACOLA (March 16, 2020) –

This weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which includes many directives that apply to employers in response to the COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) pandemic, including paid sick leave for employees affected by coronavirus. This Act passed the House with a vote of 363-40, and it is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Trump, potentially as early as this afternoon. Should the bill be enacted into law, it will take effect no later than 15 days after the date of enactment and will be applicable for one year.

Among issues addressed by this Act, changes for FMLA eligibility will apply to private employers with fewer than 500 employees and allow eligible employees to use emergency FMLA under certain coronavirus-related scenarios. Key facts to know include the following:

  1. Eligibility Changes: Previously, an employee was only eligible for FMLA leave if they met certain longevity requirements (e.g., one year of employment, 1,250 hours in previous year). Under the new law, an employee who has worked for the employer for 30 days will be eligible for coronavirus-related leave. Additionally, the 50-75 rule (which requires an employer to employ 50 persons within a 75-mile radius for an employee to be eligible for FMLA leave) will not apply.
  2. Coverage Parameters: Emergency FMLA leave will be available for the following circumstances: (a) to comply with a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; (b) to care for an at-risk family member who is complying with a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; and (c) to care for a child if the child’s school or daycare is closed or unavailable due to coronavirus issues.
  3. Unpaid v. Paid Leave: Under traditional FMLA law, an employer is not required to pay an employee on FMLA leave. Under the new law, the first two weeks of coronavirus-related FMLA leave will remain unpaid. After two weeks, however, employers must continue coronavirus-related FMLA leave on a paid basis at a rate of no less than two-thirds of the employee’s usual rate of pay.

Although the Act contains numerous other provisions and are subject to being changed prior to enactment (assuming the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law), small businesses must be aware of these potential changes, especially in light of the school closures that are occurring in the State of Florida.

As always, we at Clark Partington remain available to answer any questions you may have regarding the ever-changing legal environment the coronavirus pandemic poses. Likewise, we will provide additional updates as they occur.


Clark Partington’s employment team is equipped to answer questions related to your specific situation. With offices in Pensacola, Destin, Santa Rosa Beach, Tallahassee, and Orange Beach (Alabama), we are a full-service firm, serving the Gulf Coast.  To reach one of Clark Partington’s employment attorneys, contact Daniel Harrell at (850) 208-7033 or

About Clark Partington:

Clark Partington is the largest business focused firm in the Florida panhandle with offices in Pensacola, Destin, Grayton Beach & Tallahassee.  The firm also maintains a presence in South Alabama with an Orange Beach office.  Since 1976 Clark Partington has grown to over forty lawyers and has served the people and businesses of Florida through an innovative and collaborative approach to practicing law.  Our lawyers are consistently recognized for their service to the profession and excellence in the courtroom.  More information about the firm’s practice, its attorneys, and recognitions may be found at