*note – many of the relevant laws and regulations surrounding these issues are changing on a regular, even daily, basis. Please verify any information found on this page to ensure it’s fully up to date and accurate.
Are we considered an essential business?
From our inquiry to the state regarding our operations: We have determined that any sort of remediation, mitigation, or restoration of a property is an essential activity under Proclamation 20-25. Projects supporting non-essential activities may be completed to prevent spoliation, avoid damage or unsafe conditions, or address emergency repairs. Please also be mindful that any activity allowed to proceed must still adhere to the guidelines around social distancing and sanitation referenced in this or any subsequent proclamation related to essential businesses.
We believe a portion of Environix’s work qualifies as an essential business under the following statement.
- Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.
Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of construction sites and construction projects (including those that support such projects to ensure the availability of needed facilities, transportation, energy and communications; and support to ensure the effective removal, storage, and disposal of solid waste and hazardous waste)
Note – this does not mean every possible inspection or remediation project is considered ‘essential’. Please use your judgement to determine if an inspection is qualifying. Reach out to James with any questions. The following examples are not intended to be comprehensive.
Examples of non-essential inspections
- A customer is preparing for an upcoming remodel and needs asbestos testing. A remodel is not ‘essential’ and thus the underlying asbestos testing does not qualify.
- A customer owns a newer home with no visible mold or water damage issues but would like it checked out.
- An elderly or vulnerable person.
- Drive to your first appointment and drive home from your last are considered a commute. Due to the potential for long drives, we cap this at 45 minutes. Anything over this time limit is considered ‘on the clock’. If you drop by the office to perform work before heading home, the drive from your last job to the office is considered ‘on the clock’.
- If you’re making customer calls during the drive, this is considered ‘on the clock’.
Unemployment & PTO Info
Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Starting April 2nd
The second new type of leave created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is federally-mandated sick leave. This sick leave is limited for use to certain COVID-19-specific situations:
- The employee is subject to a quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19, or is caring for someone who is subject to such an order.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self- quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19, or is caring for someone who has been so advised.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care has been closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing “any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.”
Full-time employees get a fixed bank of 80 hours of leave for these reasons. Part-time employees receive a pro-rata amount, based on their average hours worked “over a 2-week period.” The leave is available immediately as of April 2, 2020 (the effective date of the Act) but does not carry over into 2021.
This leave is available to all employees, both exempt and nonexempt. As with Washington’s state law, employers cannot require employees to find a replacement as a condition of providing paid sick leave. Employers also cannot require employees to use other forms of paid leave, like PTO, before drawing down federal sick leave, nor can employers combine this form of sick leave with PTO.
Emergency Paid FMLA Leave – April 2nd
- All employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide Public Health Emergency Leave, even if they would otherwise be too small to qualify for the FMLA.
- The Families First Coronavirus Response Act amends the FMLA to require employers to allow employees to use their FMLA time in the event that they become “unable to work (or telework)” because the employee has a child under 18 whose “school or place of care has been closed,” or whose child care provider is “unavailable,” due to any declared emergency related to COVID-19.
- After the first ten days of leave, Public Health Emergency Leave becomes paid leave: the employer must begin paying the employee 2/3 of their regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate, for the duration of the leave.
- Small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) may be exempt from the obligations to provide Public Health Emergency Leave “when the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.” Note – this exemption is not yet active.
Can I use Paid Family and Medical Leave if I am sick with COVID-19?
As with any illness, to be eligible for paid medical leave, a healthcare provider must certify that you are unable to work due to a serious health condition. If your healthcare provider certifies your illness meets the definition of “serious health condition” and you have the qualifying hours, you can use Paid Family and Medical Leave for COVID-19 cases.
Need to stay home? Medical certification can be done electronically. The Certification of a Serious Health Condition form can be emailed to your healthcare provider and emailed back to you, then uploaded to your Paid Leave account. Electronic signatures are accepted.
Can I use Paid Family and Medical Leave if I am quarantined due to COVID-19?
Quarantine (as well as school closures and childcare closures) are not qualifying events under the program at this time, but if someone is sick with the virus they can of course get the medical certification and apply for the program. Go to the “Get ready to apply” page to learn more.
Can I use my PTO to compensate for the reduction in hours / partial layoff?
Sick leave cannot generally be used to simply supplement the income of someone whose base scheduled hours have been reduced, regardless of the reason why those hours were reduced. I can’t call in sick on Thursday, for example, and claim sick leave, if I was never scheduled to work Thursday in the first place. Employees whose hours are scheduled to be reduced can seek unemployment compensation due to the reduction in their hours, however–and that claim will likely be approved.
Should I use paid sick leave or Paid Family and Medical Leave if I’m sick with COVID-19?
Workers that are ill with COVID-19 and have access to employer-provided paid sick leave should consider using this first – this is the first line of economic support in the face of this virus. Paid Family and Medical Leave is different than paid sick leave, but may also be used if you are ill with the virus. Here are key differences that you may want to consider:
- Paid sick leave is usually paid directly by the employer.
- Paid sick leave is available for minor illnesses and preventative health care, as well as more serious health conditions. Paid Family and Medical Leave is for serious health conditions only.
- There is no waiting week with paid sick leave like there is with Paid Family and Medical Leave (see the Benefit Guide for more information about the waiting week and definition of a serious health condition).
- Paid sick leave is typically full wage replacement where Paid Family and Medical Leave is partial wage replacement (use this tool to estimate your pay with Paid Family and Medical Leave).
- Paid Family and Medical Leave requires medical certification to be approved.
Washington law requires your employer to provide you with the ability to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours you work. It is enforced by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. For more information on paid sick leave, visit the Department of Labor & Industries website. Many employers provide additional paid sick leave on top of the state requirement, and those benefits are managed within those businesses.
Q. What if I need to take time off work because I contract COVID-19?
A. The first and best option for employees who need to miss work due to illness is to use their employer-paid time off. Labor and Industries has information about Paid Sick Leave. When this leave is not available, Paid Family and Medical Leave may be available to help.
Q. What if I am asked by a medical professional or public health official to quarantine as a result of COVID-19, but I am not sick?
A. If you are following guidance issued by a medical professional or public health official to isolate or quarantine yourself as a result of exposure to COVID-19 and you are not receiving paid sick leave from your employer, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. If you know you can return to your job as soon as your isolation or quarantine is lifted, you may not need to search for work. You must able to accept any work offered by your employer that would not cause you to break isolation or quarantine.
Q. Do I qualify for unemployment benefits if I become seriously ill and I am forced to quit my job as a result of COVID-19?
A. If you are too ill to be able and available for work, you do not qualify for unemployment benefits. However, you may qualify for Paid Family & Medical Leave while you are sick. You can learn more in this Q&A. Once you recover and are available for work again, you can apply for unemployment benefits.
Q. What if I am temporarily laid off work because business has slowed down as a result of COVID-19?
A. If you are laid off work temporarily or if your hours are reduced due to a business slowdown or a lack of demand as a result of COVID-19, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits. Eligibility decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
- Standby means you do not have to look for another job while you collect unemployment benefits, so long as you stay in contact with your regular employer. You must accept any work you can do without breaking isolation or quarantine that is offered by your employer, such as telework.
Emergency rules effective March 20 allow workers up to 12 weeks of standby. We are updating our technology to reflect the new rules. If you request more than four weeks of standby, you may receive a letter denying your request. Do not worry. We are reviewing standby denials on a case-by-case basis to determine if they meet the new criteria. If your standby request is approved, you will receive another letter informing you of the approval. Keep filing weekly claims during this time.
- Partial Employment or SharedWork: Under certain circumstances, you may work part-time while collecting unemployment benefits.
Q. My child’s school is closed due to the Governor’s order to close. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?
A. It depends. If you cannot go to work because you don’t have childcare for your child while school is closed, you should call your employer and let them know why you are absent. If your employer fires you or lays you off while you are absent, you may qualify for benefits. However, you are required to be able, available and actively seeking work each week you collect unemployment benefits. If you do not have childcare so that you can return to your job or accept a work offer, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. If your situation changes, let us know. Remember, your first and best option should always be employer-paid time off.
Environix Inspection Training Materials (beta)