Are Parents Entitled to Paid Leave while Arizona Schools Remain Closed due to COVID-19?
On March 13, 2020, President Trump declared a national emergency arising from the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. In response, Governor Ducey announced on March 15, 2020 that Arizona schools would remain closed until March 27, 2020. However, he recently announced schools will remain closed through the end of the school year.
School closures have led many parents to try to find alternative childcare options or, in some cases, miss work when no other options are available to them. So, are employers required to pay employees who miss work to care for their children? The answer is it depends. In short, it depends upon whether the employee has accrued unused paid sick time under Arizona state law and whether his or her employer will be subjected to the new federal paid sick time law, which is effective April 2, 2020.
Arizona’s Paid Sick Time Law
Arizona employers are required to provide their employees paid sick time. Employees are permitted to use accrued paid sick time to care for a child whose school has been closed due to a public health emergency, which includes the COVID-19 pandemic. However, employers are not required to provide unlimited paid sick time. In Arizona, employees accrue one hour of paid sick time for every thirty hours worked. There are caps imposed depending on the size of the employer so employees may accrue between 24-40 hours of sick time annually.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Some employees will soon be entitled to additional paid sick leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Beginning on April 2, 2020, employers with 500 or fewer employees are required to provide their employees up to 12 weeks of paid sick time and FMLA leave to use for certain COVID-19 related events. Among such events include caring for a child whose school is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 related events. However, it is important to note that this does not extend to employees who are able to telework. There are also caps on what employers are required to pay. Specifically, employees are entitled to recover two-thirds of their regular pay rate (capped at $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate).
As always, employees should reach out to their employers first. There are forms that must be completed to apply for the paid leave, and the employer will have the right to review the employee’s request. Once approved, the employer will communicate with the employee about his or her rights while on leave. If necessary, an experienced employment law attorney can assist the employee with paid sick time and FMLA issues and provide further guidance regarding the protections the employee has against termination, retaliation, and other adverse actions for requesting and taking paid leave.
About the Author: Alden Thomas is an employment law attorney at Jaburg Wilk. She advises employees and employers in a wide array of issues, including state and federal sick leave, harassment, discrimination, wage and hour, wrongful termination, and whistle blower laws.