County commissioners discuss COVID-19 sick leave policies

Medina County commissioners voted to go beyond the legally required minimum regarding employee paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave due to COVID-19 during the commissioners court meeting on Thursday, July 2.

County HR Director Glenda Moody presented the court with information about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which mandates that employees qualify for 80 hours of paid sick leave at full salary if subject to a quarantine related to COVID-19, have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19, or have COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis.

The FFCRA is in effect through December 31.

“This is starting to take place in our workplace,” Moody said. “We are having a lot of people that are out on quarantine. And what was happening is people were going and getting free testing at these clinics, and there was no quarantine for the wait for the test. Now if you get tested you will be quarantined, even if you’re not having symptoms.”

Employees are also guaranteed 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds salary in order to care for someone subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has fallen through due to COVID-19, or if experiencing

Additionally, employees who need leave to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is unavailable have up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds salary.

“I need to know, if someone needs to be quarantined again and they’ve already been paid their eighty hours, what do we pay them?” Moody asked. “We have people who continue to have childcare issues. They will get paid their eighty hours, but after that, do we pay at two-thirds, or will we pay them one-hundred percent?”

Precinct 3 Commissioners David Lynch noted that the FFCRA doesn’t address what to do for employees who must be quarantined multiple times.

“So we either follow the letter of the law, do only what the law says, or we’re compassionate,” Lynch said.

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Moody said that employees who miss work due to lack of childcare are required to fill out paperwork on a weekly basis stating as such, and that the employee’s usual childcare provider has to furnish a letter stating they were unable to do so.

“We have a scenario right now where we have an employee who has a household member that’s tested positive,” Lynch said. “And they were told there’s a two-week quarantine for you, employee, but that two weeks does not start until the person that’s tested positive is past their symptoms. So now we’re already past eighty hours and it’s no fault of those people.

“It may be an extra week before that person is feeling good, then their two-week quarantine starts. So that puts them beyond the eighty hours right here.”

Judge Chris Schuchart said that 89 percent of people who are tested are negative.

“So I just want to try to make it to where employees are incentivized to come to work and not take advantage of going home,” Schuchart said. “We just gave them two months off.”

Moody said that no case was the same.

“If you have somebody who tests positive now, and for fourteen days, they’re going to get paid for eighty hours,” Moody said. “Their family member could come down positive in September, and they may be quarantined another eighty.”

Lynch asked Moody if she thought the sick leave policy was being abused, and she said it was not.

“These people that we have right now have all been told stay home fourteen days by a health care provider,” Moody said.

Schuchart suggested giving employees paid time while they wait for their required 80 paid hours to start.

“We can follow these guidelines and say if something comes up beyond this, we’ll bring it to you,” Lynch said.

“We’ll just bring it to court,” Schuchart agreed.

A motion from Lynch and Precinct 2 Commissioner Larry Sittre passed unanimously with the support of Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Beck. Precinct 1 Commissioner Tim Neumann was absent.

By Marly Davis

Staff Writer