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Can nonprofit force employees to use paid time off for COVID?

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Can nonprofit force employees to use paid time off for COVID?

If a nonprofit received a Payroll Protection Program loan and used it to cover staff wages for administration and maintenance staff who could not work while the building was closed due to COVID-19, may the nonprofit require those staff members to use paid time off for part of that time (2 weeks)? This is desired by the nonprofit so that once the building reopens, they don’t have staff trying to use a lot of vacation and leaving them without coverage.

If the nonprofit qualified for a PPP loan, I assume that it has less than 500 employees.  If so, employees are entitled to two weeks of paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the first of the many acts passed by Congress to provide relief for employers and employees, if they meet certain COVID requirements.  This leave obligation applies between April 1 and December 31 of this year, so if it hasn’t been taken, it is still available now. You are required to notify the employees of their rights under the Families First Act and cannot force an employee to take regular time office instead of the leave provided by the Act.  (It seems almost quaint now to think that the special need for leave would expire in two weeks.)

In addition, employees taking leave because their children cannot go to school or day care for COVID reasons are entitled to an additional 10 weeks of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Rates of payment vary be salary range and reason for taking leave, but the Families First Act is intended to protect employees from having to take their personal time off to respond personally to the pandemic.

Fortunately, employers are eligible for a 100% tax credit against payroll taxes for amounts paid to employees under the program.

If you can’t continue to pay people who can’t come to work for COVID reasons, you may ultimately have to lay them off.  Roughly 20% of our American workforce was collecting unemployment compensation in late July, with 1 million new applications or more being filed every week.  Particularly if Congress extends the $600 per week additional coverage, which now expires July 31, this route can protect a lot of workers without over-burdening the employer.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

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