Thursday, April 23, 2020

Family Medical Leave Act amidst COVID 19

Now’s the time to find out if you are covered or your employer is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).   

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that lets covered employees take extended time away from work, to handle certain family or medical needs.  Many states have similar laws that may provide additional coverage above and beyond that outlined in the FMLA. Following is a brief discussion of employees' rights under the FMLA.

As the COVID-19 virus spreads, more families may need to stay home from work and care for children, partners, or parents. In light of the pandemic, there are two new acts put in place to help sick people, or those caring for sick family members.

The new acts and how they might help you take paid leave are outlined below.

Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)

This act is an expansion to the FFCRA. It provides 12 weeks off for people caring for children whose school or daycare has closed due to COVID-19. Ten of the 12 weeks are paid. You would not get your full rate (typically, you would receive 2/3 pay), and the amount you can receive is capped by the law. But you would get much more relief than you usually would under the FMLA, which is unpaid.

This leave is not available to everyone. For example, if you have completely used up your FMLA this year, you will not be eligible for EFMLEA. 

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

As of April 1, 2020, the "main" new act was put into action. This temporary act will expire on December 31, 2020, when laws will go back to basic FMLA rules.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides benefits such as:
  • Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for government quarantine or self-quarantine (recommended by a health professional) under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (read more below)
  • Up to 12 weeks of expanded family and medical leave, including 10 paid weeks, for COVID-19 under The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (read more below)
  • Reimbursement for companies with fewer than 500 workers for their employees' paid time off
  • Tax credits for companies who let their employees take COVID-19-related sick leave
  • Allows for up to ten weeks of partial pay to care for your kids. Some companies are also expanding their time off or required hours to make room for childcare.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)

This act is a part of the FFCRA. It enables eligible employees to take up to two weeks of paid sick time. This does not replace your current sick time at your company, but is in addition to any time you already have.

You will receive full pay for this extra sick time. But, the amount you can be paid is capped. This extra time only applies to employees who:
  • Cannot work due to quarantine or isolation orders
  • Are self-quarantining
  • Are showing symptoms
For example, this extra sick time would not apply if you suddenly got sick with influenza A or strep throat.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES)

This act clarifies the payment limits you can receive for COVID-19-related sick leave. It also gives longer family or medical leave to anyone:
  • Laid off or fired after March 1, 2020
  • Going to be re-hired by the same company before December 31, 2020

If you believe your rights may have been violated in regards to the Family and Medical Leave Act, Call BIG DAN immediately.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Message to our Clients Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

In response to COVID-19 Pandemic, there have been numerous Orders from various governmental entities that affect the practice of law here in Hidalgo County and throughout the State of Texas.
To comply with these Orders, ensure the safety of our clients and employees, and to do our part to help flattening the curve, we are implementing the following modifications to our practice:

1.     Only essential hearings will take place for now until further notice.  If you have a pending case or a hearing coming up, you must call the office to find out if your hearing is essential.  All Jury Trials have been suspended for Civil and Criminal cases until further notice.

2.    For clients that in are Custody, we will continue to do all that we can to secure your release. For example, we are filing Motions to Reduce Bond, Writs of Habeas Corpus, and requesting PR bonds.  We ask that family members call the office for further instructions and information.

3.  Travel to and from our office will continue to be allowed, but only if absolutely necessary.  Unfortunately, we will not be accepting any walk-ins.  Current clients must call in and request an appointment.  In the event that an in-person meeting is necessary, we will request that both the employee and client wear necessary protective gear such as gloves and/or mask. 

4.   Attorney-Client meetings will be held by telephone and/or videoconferencing using Facebook WhatsApp, or ZOOM.

5.      Please call into the office if you have a pending case with us, to see where we stand. 

6.   Any hearings that will be held during this time will be either in person, videoconferencing, or Telephonic.  If you do not have internet at home or the capability to install software for videoconferencing, you might have the option to attend the hearing telephonically.  Please call our office several days before your hearing in order to coordinate with the Court on how to best conduct your hearing. 

7.    Any documents that need to be signed can be executed electronically, and sent through email or fax.  If you do not have the ability to electronically sign documents, we will make an exception for you to come in person, taking all necessary precautions.

8.  We remain reachable by phone, video, email, text, WhatsApp, ZOOM and CLIO.  We will continue to have full access to our systems, and although certain face-to-face meetings need to be curtailed, please know that with our systems in place we stand ready to assist you with any challenges you are facing or questions you have.

9.  CLIO is our practice management system.  All clients have remote access to their files using CLIO.  Clio Connect is a secure portal where our office is able to share Documents, Calendar Events, Tasks, Bills, and Secure Messages.  Clio Connect is free for clients. If you do not have access yet, please call the office and we will send you a link to log on. 

10. WE ARE STILL OPEN FOR BUSINESS. OUR HOURS ARE THE SAME.  We are considered a critical infrastructure industry by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

1.   We are instructing all staff to practice good social distancing from each other and from clients, at least 6 feet apart.  Absolutely no physical contact.  Allow only one client, one person at a time to be on the premises.  Providing clients with the necessary protective equipment such as mask and gloves.  All meetings will take place in conference room, where only two people will be allowed at a time.  Ensure proper disposal of equipment and disinfecting areas of contact.

2.    All personnel have individual offices and shall remain in place until the need arises for leaving to restroom or leaving for lunch.

3.   We are staggering our shifts in order to avoid the need for coming in close contact with each other. 

4.  Employees who have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should notify their supervisor and stay home.

5.   Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

6.   Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.

7.   Our employees are equipped with Personal Protection Equipment such as gloves and masks and will be worn at all times when in close contact with others.

8.  We are promoting frequent and thorough hand washing by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. Soap and running water are immediately available, as well as alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.

9.    Most importantly everyone is required maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should consult information on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, PPE).


Fortunately, our firm has a plan in place to ensure business continuity so that we are operational and fully available to handle client matters as seamlessly as possible. 

We realize that each client, business, and industry will feel the effect in different ways, and our attorneys are prepared to help you navigate this uncharted territory, or to just lend an ear. 

Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by this pandemic, and we wish for everyone to remain healthy and safe as we work through these challenging times. We are all in this together, and together we will get through it.

To help our employees and clients navigate through these uncharted waters, we encourage you to read, "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19"