Back to School at Home: U.S. Department of Labor Answers Questions About Eligibility for Paid Leave for Remote Learning Under the FFCRA

By Jaimee K. Wellerstein, Esq.

On August 27, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued guidance related to the reopening of schools. The new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) explain eligibility for qualifying for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) relative to the varied formats and schedules schools have announced as they reopen. The FAQs are quoted below:

Question 98: My child’s school is operating on an alternate day (or other hybrid-attendance) basis. The school is open each day, but students alternate between days attending school in person and days participating in remote learning. They are permitted to attend school only on their allotted in-person attendance days. May I take paid leave under the FFCRA in these circumstances?

Yes, you are eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA on days when your child is not permitted to attend school in person and must instead engage in remote learning, as long as you need the leave to actually care for your child during that time and only if no other suitable person is available to do so. For purposes of the FFCRA and its implementing regulations, the school is effectively “closed” to your child on days that he or she cannot attend in person. You may take paid leave under the FFCRA on each of your child’s remote-learning days.

Question 99: My child’s school is giving me a choice between having my child attend in person or participate in a remote learning program for the fall. I signed up for the remote learning alternative because, for example, I worry that my child might contract COVID-19 and bring it home to the family. Since my child will be at home, may I take paid leave under the FFCRA in these circumstances?

No, you are not eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA because your child’s school is not “closed” due to COVID-19 related reasons; it is open for your child to attend. FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance. If your child is home not because his or her school is closed, but because you have chosen for the child to remain home, you are not entitled to FFCRA paid leave. However, if, because of COVID-19, your child is under a quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-isolate or self-quarantine, you may be eligible to take paid leave to care for him or her. See FAQ 63.

Also, as explained more fully in FAQ 98, if your child’s school is operating on an alternate day (or other hybrid-attendance) basis, you may be eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA on each of your child’s remote-learning days because the school is effectively “closed” to your child on those days.

Question 100: My child’s school is beginning the school year under a remote learning program out of concern for COVID-19, but has announced it will continue to evaluate local circumstances and make a decision about reopening for in-person attendance later in the school year. May I take paid leave under the FFCRA in these circumstances?

Yes, you are eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA while your child’s school remains closed. If your child’s school reopens, the availability of paid leave under the FFCRA will depend on the particulars of the school’s operations.

The complete 100-question DOL FAQ is available here.

Employer Takeaway:

Employers should continue to be flexible during this time. Even when schools begin to reopen, things can change quickly when an outbreak occurs or when reported numbers increase, so be prepared to work with employees who have school-age children. Even if the FFCRA (or other) leave laws don’t apply, consider whether allowing employees to take other applicable leave to stay home to care for their children is appropriate.

Have questions about the leave laws or any other pressing employment law issues? Contact your attorneys at Bradley & Gmelich LLP. We are here to help.


Jaimee Wellerstein

Jaimee K. Wellerstein is a Partner at Bradley & Gmelich LLP, and the Head of the firm’s Employment Department. Jaimee concentrates her practice in representing employers in all aspects of employment law, including defense of wage and hour class actions, PAGA claims, discrimination, retaliation, harassment, wrongful discharge, misclassification, and other employment related lawsuits. She also provides employment counseling and training in all of these areas.

Jaimee routinely represents employers in federal and state courts and in arbitration proceedings throughout the state, as well as at administrative proceedings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement, the United States Department of Labor, and other federal and state agencies.

Jaimee assists as a Legal Advisor to CALSAGA, and is a member of ASIS International. She is rated AV-Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest peer rating available. jwellerstein@bglawyers.com