The school districts in North Texas recently released a survey asking parents their opinion about how their children should return to school in August. We are awaiting the results, though with COVID-19 cases still at a peak in Texas, we would be surprised if the doors open over the next few weeks. There could potentially be a “half-and-half option,” meaning it could be a combination of remote and in-person. Anyway, you might be asking, “What does this have to do with employment law?”

Actually, quite a bit.

Remember the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?
The FFCRA kicks in if an employee is caring for a child because their school has closed due to COVID-19. If this takes place, the employee is eligible for 80 hours of paid sick leave under the FFCRA and ten weeks of expanded family medical leave.

Now for the big question – “Are employees eligible for FFCRA leave if their kids have a choice of remote or in-person learning?” Here at GroupOne Background Screening, we expect this dual option to be available in many school districts.

Does the FFCRA cover distance learning?
The question of whether employees are entitled to take leave under the FFCRA for children who are remote-learning will depend on why they are doing so.

If the school district is open for in-person learning and parents choose a remote option for their own personal safety reasons, then they will not be eligible for relief.

If the school district is 100 percent remote – and this will be the case in many urban districts – then employees will be eligible for FFCRA relief.

If children are attending a school with a mix of in-person and remote learning per a schedule established by the district, then FFCRA relief will be available intermittently – if the employer agrees.

More caveats
Parents with children in an open school district could still possibly qualify for FFCRA leave if the child is remote-learning because a doctor has advised that the child self-quarantine because of COVID-19 concerns (perhaps due to diabetes or an auto-immune disease).

If the school district is entirely remote, employees with children would probably be able to take leave under the FFCRA.

Bottom Line
Eligible employers (with 500 or less employees) have just a few weeks to consider these questions before school districts make final decisions on opening their doors. GroupOne Background Screening recommends that employers create a consistent plan for employees before schools announce their decision.

The information and opinions expressed are for educational purposes only and are based on current practice, industry related knowledge and business expertise. The information provided shall not be construed as legal advice, express or implied.