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COVID-19 & Employment in West Virginia

After COVID-19 killed more than 4,000 people and affected at least 114 countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020. This is the first time a pandemic was caused by a coronavirus and the first time an outbreak was called a pandemic since “swine flu” (H1N1) in 2009.

Since the declaration, life as we knew in the United States was changed forever. States across the country issued stay-at-home orders, resulting in restaurants, bars, concert venues, sports arenas, and many other businesses to close their doors until further notice. Unfortunately, these actions have led to a significant amount of people being laid off from work.

According to an analysis by Moody’s Analytics, over half of jobs in the U.S. — nearly 80 million — could be in jeopardy. Approximately 27 million of these jobs are at high risk because of the virus, especially in the travel, hospitality, and leisure industries.

If you lost your job or experienced a significant reduction in hours of employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you have several options you may take advantage of to help you stay afloat and support your family during this frightening and trying time.

File for Unemployment

On Thursday, March 19, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice issued an Executive Order, which directed the West Virginia Department of Commerce and WorkForce West Virginia to ensure all individuals affected by COVID-19 will be eligible for maximum unemployment benefits allowed by federal law, for as long as the State of Emergency Declaration stays in place.

The following are eligible for these benefits:

  • Individuals who were laid off
  • Individuals who had their work hours reduced
  • Individuals who are prevented from performing work duties because of a COVID-19 diagnosis or other communicable disease control measures in relation to COVID-19

The Declaration waives the one-week waiting period for benefits, the work requirements regarding availability to work, the work search requirements, and the requirements to actively seek work.

Use Paid Sick Leave or FMLA

President Donald Trump recently signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides up to 80 hours of emergency sick leave for anyone who is quarantined, has to care for another person who is quarantined, or if their child’s school or daycare is closed for the time being. Qualified employees are not required to use their other leave options first. This law applies to employers who have 500 workers or fewer, and has pay caps.

Additionally, FFCRA also contains an expansion to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If an employee cannot work at the office or at home due to caring for a child cannot attend school or daycare because of the shutdown, they can qualify for up to 12 weeks of leave. While the first 10 days of leave will not be paid, the remainder of the leave requires employers to pay their employees two-thirds of their regular salary with a cap. There are exceptions for employers with less than 25 employees.

Keep in mind, the law is supposed to take effect in no less than 15 days. This means these types of family leave and sick leave will be available on April 1.

For more information about employment issues in West Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact our Morgantown employment attorney at The Moore Law Firm, PLLC today.