FMLA Articles

Travel quarantine orders can result in FFCRA leave


Key to remember: If your location has a travel advisory that includes a quarantine order, your employees may be entitled to use FFCRA leave for the quarantine period.

Applies to: Private employers with fewer than 500 employees, and all public employers.

Impact to customers: Employers need to be aware of the details of travel advisories.

Possible impact to JJK products/services: This will be in the Leave Manager.

Several states have issued travel advisories that mandate a quarantine period if travelers are coming into the particular state from outside areas that have high COVID-19 infection rates. Why does this matter to employers? Because one of the reasons employees may take emergency paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is if they are subject to a quarantine/isolation order. Employees in those states that have travel advisories that include quarantine orders for travel to hot spots are, therefore, entitled to take the paid leave.

As of July 16, states that have travel advisories with quarantine requirements include New York, New Jersey, Texas, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, Hawaii, and Texas, but these provisions have been known to change as the situation in the U.S. evolves.

Such state travel advisories often change the list of what other states are included as the hot spots change. On July 14, for example, New Jersey added Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin to its list of high-risk areas.

Some advisories indicate that anyone returning from travel to states that have a significant degree of community-wide spread of COVID-19 are subject to the quarantine order. High-risk states are often defined as any state that has a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or higher than a 10 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. So, the numbers matter.

The details of a particular advisory are also worth noting. In New York, for example, employees will forgo their paid sick leave benefits from New York's COVID-19 paid sick leave law if they engage in non-essential travel to high-risk states.

Some advisories may indicate that if someone is returning from certain, less-risky areas that do not have a significant degree of spread, they need not quarantine as long as they can provide a negative test result.

Violations of some of these advisories can include fines and jail terms. Some fines are up to $1,000 and some jail terms are up to 180 days. The FFCRA does not generally cover the time an employee spends in jail.

While employers may put into place such travel-related quarantine requirements, the orders need to be promulgated by a government in order to qualify for FFCRA leave.

Employers, therefore, need to keep an eye on the myriad of state travel advisories and their details, including which states are high-risk. This is an ever-changing situation, which can make compliance with the FFCRA a bit more challenging.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. The content of these news items, in whole or in part, MAY NOT be copied into any other uses without consulting the originator of the content.


The J. J. Keller LEAVE MANAGER service is your business resource for tracking employee leave and ensuring compliance with the latest Federal and State FMLA and leave requirements.