New California law affecting small businesses, employees amid Covid-19

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EUREKA, Ca. (KIEM)-During this pandemic, employees are struggling with whether to return to work, how to return to work, and what that looks like.

The U.S. didn’t have the same legal structure, during the 1918 global pandemic, we have now.

Redwood News spoke to a local attorney and she says there are new laws on the books that affect small businesses and their employees.

Attorney Amelia Burroughs is a practicing attorney in Eureka specializing in employment law.

“There’s a Swiss cheese effect of a bunch of laws that relate to the workplace in COVID-19,” said Burroughs. “Probably the biggest change is for employers, is the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act”, It’s a Federal Law.”

The law came into effect in March of this year, stays in effect until this December and applies to employers with between one and 499 employees.

“There’s is now a paid sick leave. It’s federally mandated and it’s for all kinds of circumstances,” she said. “And it’s basically 80 hours of paid sick leave if an employee of a small business becomes sick with Coronavirus or has to take care of a family member who’s sick with Coronavirus.”

And there is a huge change on the federal level, according to Burroughs.

She says before the pandemic, small business owners weren’t mandated to provide paid sick leave.

That same federal law also extended the “Family Medical Leave Act”.

“That applies to larger employers, it’s usually about bereavement and usually doesn’t apply to small employers,” she said. “In this instance, it does apply to small employers but only applies in a circumstance the employee is taking care of a child and can’t go to work because that child is out of school or out of daycare due to COVID closures.”

Burroughs says employers with between one to 499 employers are now required to pay that employee 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their pay.

“They make a huge difference economically for employers, and it’s really important to know, and they make a huge economically for employers too,” she said. “Otherwise they would have to take a leave that they would otherwise not get paid for.”  

According to Burroughs, the county dictates what opening back up, looks like physically.

“The rest of the law is about what you owe people, time off, and when you have to pay them when their sick, but the county certification says this is what it looks like,” said Burroughs. “Get some Plexiglass, wear your mask, disinfect, do the appropriate social distancing and that is really a practical matter in putting employees back to work looks like.”

More information can be found on the California U.S. Department of Labor’s website or click here.