With schools and daycares closed, I can’t work because I need to be home with my kids…
My employer closed and I am laid off…
I am sick and cannot work. What can I do to make sure I still have some income?
The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought a lot of worries about making ends meet while staying healthy. Below we share answers to frequently asked questions about workers’ rights related to sick leave, family medical leave, and unemployment insurance. We also address some common scenarios that many Marylanders are facing with COVID-19 and information on what benefits may be available when work is not an option.
The Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (MHWFA) provides unpaid or paid sick leave for certain employees, depending on employer size and type of employee. Employers with 15 or more employees must provide paid sick leave once accrued. Employers with less than 15 employees are only required to provide unpaid sick leave once accrued. If you’ve been working for a business for more than 106 days, you will likely have accrued at least some sick leave under the MHWFA. However, businesses are not required to allow employees to use more than 8 days of sick leave per year; also, they are not required to allow their employees to use sick leave for school closures or quarantine. For additional FAQs about the MHWFA, visit our Maryland sick leave FAQs (and here in Spanish). See more information on the MHWFA here. You may also have leave you can use in relation to COVID-19 under a new federal law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). See below.
FFCRA will take effect April 1, 2020, and it allows certain employees to take paid leave to respond to COVID-19 under specified circumstances. FFCRA does three things to help workers: it provides emergency paid sick leave (“Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act”); it expands Family Medical Leave (“Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion”); and it expands Unemployment Insurance (UI) assistance to states that meet certain criteria. The Department of Labor released guidance on how the FFCRA will affect certain employees at this link.
In general, employees of a business with fewer than 500 employees. Unfortunately, healthcare providers and emergency responders are not eligible for sick leave under this Act.
An employee can take paid sick leave if they are unable to work because:
80 hours for full time employees. For part-time employees, the average number of hours they work over a two-week period.
An employee taking leave for the first two reasons above should receive their regular rate of pay or minimum wage (up to $511 per day for higher earners or $200 for reasons 4-6 above), but an employee taking leave to care for another will be paid two-thirds of their usual rate of pay.
Yes, FFCRA expanded family medical leave to respond to COVID-19 until December 31, 2020.
Employers with fewer than 500 employees and employees who have been employed there for at least 30 calendar days.
An employee can use expanded family medical leave if unable to work or telework due to a need for leave to care for a son or daughter who is under 18 if the child’s school or place of care was closed or the care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency related to the coronavirus. Under expanded family medical leave:
Any leave an employee has earned under the MHWFA can be used in addition to leave the employee may be eligible for under the recently passed FFCRA.
If your employer has a website or you can ask your employer, start there.
You may be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, and there are new rules to help workers impacted by COVID-19 even if they otherwise would not be eligible for benefits. Please review information related to the new rules, and when workers will be able to apply here: https://www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/unemployment.shtml.
You can also view the Maryland Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Division FAQs on COVID-19 and Maryland’s Unemployment Insurance benefits administration here. To file an initial regular unemployment claim online or through a call center, the Maryland Department of Labor asks that you file your claim according to your last name as detailed below:
Claims Centers telephone are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. To contact a Claim Center, call 410-949-0022. Applicants are asked to use NetClaims application to file a claim and to file early in the morning or late in the evening for faster processing speeds.
Misclassification and unemployment insurance
If you were working under the direction and control of an entity or person, and not in business for yourself, but your boss told you that you are an independent contractor rather than an employee, you may have been misclassified. Find out more about the difference between employees and independent contractors here. If you were misclassified as an independent contractor, you may still be eligible for unemployment insurance. If your claim is denied and you believe you were misclassified, call Maryland Legal Aid for help with an appeal. For a list of intake hours by location, check here. To complete an online intake with Maryland Legal Aid, click here.
You can generally use sick leave to care for a family member. See above information on “I am sick and cannot work.”
If your employer has reduced your normal work hours as a result of COVID-19, you may be eligible for partial benefits. You can apply for unemployment insurance benefits online or by phone at 410-949-0022 (within the Baltimore-metro area and out-of-state) between 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday or 1-800-827-4839 (from within Maryland).
Maryland Legal Aid may be able to assist with an appeal. Call their intake hotline. For a list of intake hours by location, check here. You can also complete an online intake with Maryland Legal Aid here.