COVID-19 and State Updates

September 12, 2021

U.S. Federal Update

Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The Treasury Department and the IRS worked together to issue Notice 2021-53 which provides guidance for employers about reporting qualified sick and family leave wages for 2021 under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the American Rescue Plan Act.

U.S. State Updates

California

A few years ago, the legislature passed and Governor Brown signed AB 908. Among other things, this bill increased the benefit rate for disability and paid family leave claims from 55% to either 60% or 70% (dependent upon wages earned in an employee’s base period). The benefit percentage increase was a temporary measure that was intended to expire at the end of 2021.

Over the summer, the legislature passed and Governor Newsom signed AB 138. This bill extends the greater benefit percentage through December 31, 2022.

Los Angeles County

You may recall the Employee Paid Leave for Expanded COVID-19 Vaccine Access Ordinance from our May 27, 2021 newsletter. The ordinance was due to expire August 31, 2021 but has since been extended until 14 days after the expiration of the COVID-19 local emergency. The updated ordinance can be found here and the updated workplace poster can be found here. As a reminder, the poster may be shared with employees electronically.

Connecticut

The Connecticut Family and Medical Leave (CTFML) law will have some major changes come January 1, 2022:

  • The number of employees required to be a covered employer is decreasing significantly from 75 to only 1.
  • There will no longer be a requisite number of hours worked requirement for employees to be eligible for CTFML. Currently, employees must work at least 1,000 hours in the 12 months prior to the start of their leave.
  • Currently, employees must work for their employer for at least 12 months to be eligible for CTFML. As of 2022, employees only have to work for their employer for 3 months (12 weeks) prior to their leave to be eligible.
  • The amount of leave available under CTFML is currently 16 weeks in a 24-month period. This will change to 12 weeks in a 12-month period with an additional 2 weeks of leave available for those incapacitated due to pregnancy. Military caregivers will still have 26 weeks in a 12-month period.
  • Employers will still be able to require employees to use accrued paid time off while on leave, however, they must allow employees to keep up to 2 weeks of accrued paid time off starting in 2022.

District of Columbia

Several changes are in store for D.C. Recently signed into law, B 373 amends not only the Universal Paid Leave Act (starting on page 91) but also the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act (page 99). Important updates include:

Paid Family Leave (PFL) Program

  • For medical leave claims filed on or after October 1, 2021 and before October 1, 2022, employees may receive up to 6 weeks of paid leave benefits.
  • For claims filed on or after October 1, 2021 and before October 1, 2022, employees will be able to receive paid leave benefits for pre-natal leave. The maximum duration for this leave type will be 2 weeks.
  • The one-week waiting period will be removed for claims filed after October 1, 2021 and up to one year following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Currently, employees may only file claims after a qualifying event occurs and must do so as soon as possible to avoid disruption to their benefits. The amended law now allows employees to submit a claim within 30 calendar days after the qualifying event (and possibly longer if there are exigent circumstances).
  • The Short Term Disability Insurance Benefit Protection Amendment Act expired August 24, 2021. The amended law includes language that prohibits insurers from reducing or offsetting benefits under a short term disability plan by what they receive from PFL. As with the first law, this provision does not apply to employers with a self-insured short term disability benefit plan.

DC Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA)

  • Eligibility for leave under the DCFMLA has been amended. The requirement to be employed for 12-months with the same employer prior to a leave request has been loosened. Employees now can meet the 12 months of employment requirement in non-consecutive months (inclusive of holiday, sick, or personal leave) in the seven years prior to a requested leave start date.
  • When it comes to COVID-19-related leave, employees only need to be employed for 30 days prior to their leave request.

The Office of Human Rights has also released updated guidance for the COVID-19 Support Emergency Amendment Act.

Maine

A quick reminder that employees in Maine will be able to take leave to provide care for two additional family members (grandchild or domestic partner’s grandchild) with a serious health condition starting September 15, 2021. Child, domestic partner’s child, parent, domestic partner, sibling, or spouse (with a serious health condition) are already covered under the law.

Maryland

Another quick reminder that as of October 1, 2021, employees will be able to use earned paid leave (sick leave, vacation time, paid time off, and compensatory time) for bereavement purposes. See our June 15, 2021 newsletter for more details.

Missouri

Governor Parson recently signed into law HB 432 which includes a requirement for employers to provide job protected, unpaid leave as well as reasonable safety accommodations to employees who are victims of domestic or sexual violence. Employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide 2 weeks of leave while employers with at least 20 but fewer than 49 employees are required to provide 1 week of leave.

The Larkin Company does not track this leave type, but if you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this new law, please contact us at compliance_services@thelarkincompany.com.

New York

The Department of Financial Services (DFS) has released updated premium details for the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program for 2022. The contribution rate will remain unchanged at 0.511% of PFL covered wages. The state average weekly wage was updated earlier this year to $1,594.57 which makes the taxable wage ceiling $82,917.64. As a result, the maximum contribution per employee in 2022 will increase from $385.34 to $423.71. The maximum weekly benefit will increase from $971.61 to $1,068.36.

Canada Provincial Update

Ontario

Ontario has extended their 3-day pandemic sick leave program which was due to expire on September 25, 2021. The program will now remain in place until December 31, 2021. Please see our May 17, 2021 newsletter for details of this program.

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