Stay-At-Home or Shelter-In-Place Orders are NOT the Same Thing as Quarantine

Several clients have recently contacted us to ask questions about the new Emergency Family and Medical Leave employee rights which were passed last week. You can download a white paper with detailed analysis on the FFCRA from our new COVID-19 Resource Center. One source of confusion is that several of those leave provisions kick in if an employee is quarantined because of the virus that causes COVID-19. Businesses in counties or states that are under Stay-At-Home or Shelter-In-Place orders from local or state governments ask if those orders are quarantines for the purposes of the Emergency Leave policies. 

The answer is no. Quarantine and Stay-At-Home are different things. Quarantine is an enforcement action by local or state health authorities which isolates an individual inside their own home or in a hospital because they have been diagnosed with or are suspected of being sick with a communicable disease. A business location can also be quarantined in the event it is the source of an outbreak of such a disease and needs to be cleaned. To be clear, the new sick leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) may be triggered when an employee (human) is diagnosed with COVID-19 or when an employee is caring for someone who is medically affected by COVID-19.   

Stay-At-Home and Shelter-In-Place orders are emergency control orders that apply to everyone in a given area, and most provide for business to continue for a wide variety of employers and activities, but limit non-essential travel and gathering. Stay-At-Home orders are not the same as quarantine. 

Examples of when a Stay-At-Home Order could trigger the new Paid Sick Leave provisions of the FFCRA: 

One big question for Employers is whether an employee would be able to work or telework “but for” the requirement to follow the Stay-At-Home order. 

1. If the Company does not have work for the employee to perform, then the employee who is subject to the Stay-At-Home order is not entitled to FFCRA paid sick leave. 

For example:  Suppose you have a barista who is employed at a coffee shop, and the coffee shop has decided to close temporarily due to the downturn in business related to COVID-19. In North Carolina, we have a state-wide Stay-At-Home order, so the barista is subject to the order. Here, the barista would not be able to work even without the Stay-At-Home order because the coffee shop is closed. The barista is not entitled to paid sick leave under the FFCRA, because his inability to work is not due to the Stay-At-Home order, but rather due to the coffee shop closure. 

2. If the Company can provide telework to the employee, then an employee who is following the Stay-At-Home order can continue to work while subject to the order.  The employee is not entitled to paid sick leave under the FFCRA while she is able to telework. 

However, what if the employee is no longer able to telework? For example: If the employee is unable to telework (due to a power outage or other similar extenuating circumstances), then:

  • Is the employee able to leave home and go to the workplace? This may be an option for certain Essential Businesses, whose employees are not subject to a Stay-At-Home order for limited purposes. 
  • If the employee may not otherwise leave home due to the Stay-At-Home order and cannot telework, then the employee may be entitled to paid sick leave under the FFCRA in this instance.  In our example of a power outage, the teleworking employee would be eligible for paid sick leave during the period of the power outage. 

Please keep these distinctions in mind when considering your payroll and employment actions. And don’t hesitate to contact us for clarification.