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Do employers owe employees paid sick leave when they self-quarantine?

By Lynne Curry bio

Question:

After I spent a weekend bar hopping, I felt remorseful, and self-quarantined so I wouldn’t bring COVID into my workplace and make others ill. I also took a COVID test and luckily tested negative.

Since my employer had moved everyone back on-site, I couldn’t work remotely and labeled my time off as sick leave. I just got my paycheck and apparently my employer has denied my sick leave. What’s my recourse?

Answer:

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows most private sector employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave in five instances. A health care provider advises the employee to self-quarantine; the employee is seeking a diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms; the employee or someone the employee is caring for is under a government quarantine or stay-at-home order; the employee is caring for a child whose school, child care provider or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19.1

None of these instances exactly fits your circumstances, even though you sought testing for COVID, unless you had symptoms. That said, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently entered several settlements to resolve FFCRA self-quarantine cases. In one of these, seven employees of a Smoothie King franchise requested emergency paid sick leave while some sought medical diagnosis for suspected coronavirus infection.

At the same time, notes Corey Daspit, President of the Human Resources firm APEX HRO, “Given the extreme communicability of COVID-19, everyone needs to avoid situations that could put them at risk for catching the virus. That said, if you believe you’ve exposed yourself, it’s good that you did the right thing and didn’t return to the workplace until you felt certain you wouldn’t sicken anyone else. Should your employer give you sick leave when your exposure was your personal choice? That’s debatable.”

1https://blog.dol.gov/2020/05/11/are-you-eligible-for-covid-19-paid-leave

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