If No Work Available, Then No Sick Leave Quarantine or isolation orders include a broad range of governmental orders, including orders that advise or require employees to Shelter in Place, Stay at Home, or quarantine. The regulations clarify that an employee may take paid sick leave only if such an order prevents him or her from working or teleworking. The question is whether the employee would be able to work or telework “but for” being required to comply with a quarantine or Shelter in Place order. An employee subject to one of these orders may not take paid sick leave where the employer does not have work for the employee. For example, if a coffee shop closes temporarily or indefinitely due to a downturn in business related to COVID-19, it would no longer have any work for its employees. A cashier previously employed at the coffee shop who is subject to a Shelter in Place order would not be able to work even if he were not required to stay at home. As such, he or she may not take paid sick leave because the inability to work is not due to the need to comply with the Shelter in Place order, but rather due to the closure of the place of employment. Employers are encouraged to direct employees to their state unemployment insurance resources for circumstances such as these. If Work at Home Available, Then No Sick Leave If an employee subject to a Shelter in Place or quarantine order is able to telework, the employee may not take paid sick leave (assuming the employer has work for the employee, the employer permits working from home, and there are no extenuating circumstances that prevent the employee from performing that work). For example, if a law firm permits its attorneys to work from home, a lawyer would not be prevented from working by a Shelter in Place order, and thus may not take paid sick leave as a result of that order. Self-Quarantine and Work at Home Where an employee is unable to work because he or she has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine for a COVID-19 reason, that employee may not take sick leave unless it actually prevents the employee from working. If the employee is able to telework, the employee may not take paid sick leave because of the need to self-quarantine. Employee Experiencing Symptoms or Seeking Diagnosis If an employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis, paid sick time may be taken, but it is limited to the time the employee is unable to work because he or she is taking affirmative steps to obtain a medical diagnosis. There are a number of permutations to this scenario, summarized as follows: 1. If the employee is self-quarantining without seeking a medical diagnosis, paid sick leave may not be taken. 2. If an employee is waiting for the results of a test and can telework, paid sick leave may not be taken, unless disease symptoms actually prevent work. 3. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, regardless of symptoms experienced, paid sick leave may be taken provided that the health care provider advises the employee to self-quarantine. 4. If an employee is unable to telework, paid sick leave may be taken while awaiting a test result, regardless of the severity of the COVID-19 symptoms. 5. If an employee exhibits COVID-19 symptoms and seeks medical advice but is told that he or she does not meet the criteria for testing and is advised to self-quarantine, paid leave may be taken.
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