A lot of information has been circulating about leave for parents struggling with the return to work issues in light of the COVID-related school and childcare situations. Most of the focus has been on FFCRA rights. However, employers must remember that additional State laws may come into play as well.
Maine has a law entitled “Employment Leave for Caregivers and People Affected by an Extreme Health Emergency.” This law requires an employer to grant “reasonable and necessary leave from work”, paid or unpaid, for an employee based on several reasons.
Those reasons include:
- An employee is acting in accordance with an extreme public health emergency order and cannot work.
- When the employee cannot work because they are in quarantine, isolation, or other control measure related to the extreme public health emergency.
- When the employee cannot work because the employer directs them not to do so.
- In response to a concern that the employee may expose others in the workplace to the extreme public health emergency.
- The employee cannot work because they must provide care or assistance to a spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child.
Exceptions to The Requirements:
- The employer would sustain undue hardship from the employee’s absence, including the need to downsize for legitimate reasons related to the impact of the extreme public health emergency on the operation of the business.
- The request for leave is not communicated to the employer within a reasonable time under the circumstances.
- The employee is a state, county, or municipal employee whose responsibilities are related to services necessary for protecting the public’s health and safety in an extreme public health emergency.
- If the employer requires the employee to work unless there are no other options available to provide care or assist individuals listed under the Act, including children.
The leave must be for the duration of an extreme public health emergency and a reasonably necessary time period following the termination of the extreme public health emergency for diseases or conditions contracted or exposures that occurred during the extreme public health emergency.
As noted, the leave can be paid or unpaid, at the discretion of the employer. An employer facing situations of requests for leave must remember to consider this law in addition to the FFCRA, other applicable employment laws, and the interaction between them.