Q: An employee who returned from vacation in Florida is required to self-quarantine based on the state's new travel advisory. Are they eligible for federal paid leave benefits?

A: Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order June 24 requiring travelers entering Connecticut from states experiencing a surge in coranavirus cases to self-quarantine for 14 days.

The order was issued in conjunction with New York and New Jersey, impacting visitors and residents returning from states with positive test rates greater than 10 per 100,000 or with a positivity rate of 10% or higher over a seven-day rolling average.

As of June 26, eight states—Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah—had positivity rates above that threshold.

Workers traveling from impacted states to Connecticut who work in critical infrastructure as designated by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are exempted from the quarantine advisory.

Lamont also suggested self-quarantine would only be required "if you haven't had a test within 72 hours" of arrival in Connecticut. However, the state has yet to issue guidance on testing.

Paid Sick Leave

Returning employees who are not permitted back to work should be eligible for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act emergency paid sick leave of up to two weeks/10 days/80 hours at full pay. 

And employers should be able to recover the cost of the paid leave via the FFCRA payroll tax credit provisions.

Paid leave should be provided as long as work is otherwise available—that is, the business has not shut down due to the quarantine order, an outbreak of COVID, or possibly a seasonal shutdown for maintenance, as outlined in U.S. Department of Labor guidance (see question 60).

Keep in mind that the states subject to the quarantine order may change from time to time. The state of Connecticut is maintaining an updated online list.

If a returning, self-quarantining worker has previously exhausted available emergency paid sick leave, they may be eligible for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, administered by the Connecticut Department of Labor.

Other Considerations

Employers might consider a memo to employees advising they keep abreast of and avoid booking a trip to any of the designated hot spot states on the list, as it may delay their ability to return to work when planned.

We also recommend that employees planning on traveling to and from hot spot states schedule COVID-19 tests before they travel and after they return.

Is this forced extension of work or' vacation travels, at full or half pay, at least until end of July, an unintended consequence?

Maybe so, but let's not forget the critical underlying safety and health foundation of quarantine, social distancing, and face mask efforts.

Be disciplined, considerate, and stay smart, stay safe!

HR problems? Email or call Mark Soycher at the HR Hotline (860.244.1900) | @HRHotline