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School is In, But What About Work?

Posted by Kathy Harrington-Sullivan | Aug 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

In one of our previous blog posts, we let you know what to expect as businesses reopened, schools closed for summer, and workers faced childcare difficulties. Now that school has resumed for fall, working parents are again having to juggle work, childcare, and schooling. We want to be sure your workplace rights aren't another source of confusion, so in this blog we revisit the Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) and boil down some key questions and answers the Department of Labor recently clarified about Extended Family Medical Leave (EFML) related to child care and schooling.

Q: I used a few weeks of EFML before I was furloughed. My employer is now reopening and I'm being called back to work, but my childcare is still unavailable due to COVID. How much more EFML time can I take, if any?

A: Under the FFCRA, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of EFML in total. The time you were furloughed does not count as EFML time, and when you return to work, you would be eligible to take any remaining weeks of EFML you may have left, as long as you have a qualifying reason to take it. Be aware that your employer may treat this as a new request for leave and may ask for documentation about why you need leave at the current time.

Q: I was furloughed, but my employer is calling people back to work. Can they extend my furlough because I need to take EFML? 

A: No. Employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against you for exercising or attempting to exercise your right to take EFML. Your employer cannot use your need for EFML as a reason to fire you or not bring you back to work. Additionally, if you're a job applicant, the employer cannot use your need for EFML as a reason not to hire you.

Q: My child's school is operating on an alternate day or hybrid basis. The school is open, but students alternate between in-person days and remote learning days. They can only attend school only on their allotted in-person days. May I take EFML in these circumstances? 

A: Yes, you are eligible to take EFML on days when your child is not permitted to attend school in person, as long as you need the leave to actually care for your child and no other suitable person is available to do so. The FFCRA defines school as effectively “closed” on days that your child cannot attend in person, so you may take EFML time on each of your child's remote-learning days. For more information about pay that is available to you during EFML, see one of our early COVID blog posts, here.

Q: My child's school is giving me a choice between having my child attend in person or participate in remote learning. I chose remote learning, may I take EFML?

A: No, if your child is home because you have chosen for the child to remain home and not because his or her school is closed due to COVID-19, but you are not entitled to take EFML. 

Q: My child's school is beginning the school year with a remote learning program but may reopen for in-person attendance later in the school year. May I take EFML? 

A: Yes, you are eligible to take EFML while your child's school remains closed. If your child's school reopens, the availability of EFML will depend on the how the school is operating, as outlined in the questions above. 

Still have questions about EFML or other FFCRA paid leave? Please feel free to call us at 404-487-0903, our attorneys are available Monday through Friday from 9 AM until 5 PM and will be happy to talk with you.

About the Author

Kathy Harrington-Sullivan

Kathy Harrington Sullivan is a Partner at Barrett & Farahany who helps potential clients understand the law, clarify their rights, and determine which steps they can take to protect themselves and their jobs.


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When you reach out to us, you will receive a complimentary consultation with one of our skilled Atlanta employment attorneys. During our initial consultation with you, we can help you to better understand your rights and will work with you to determine what course of action is in your best interest. We take great pride in providing assistance based on years of experience negotiating and litigating employment matters to protect employee interests. If you find yourself in need of dedicated legal representation, we are prepared to advocate on your behalf – our goal is always to protect employee victims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.