Paid Leave for Covid-19 Related Reasons

The Houk Law Firm is committed to providing up-to-date information about new laws
affecting employers and employees in light of the Covid-19 situation. That’s why we created
this short guide to Covid-19 paid leave.




Beginning April 1, 2020, employees are entitled to Covid-19-related paid leave. In general,
employees are entitled to paid leave when they are affected by Covid-19. Employees
may be eligible for:
 80 hours of paid leave at 100% of their pay when:
– the employee must stay home on the recommendation of a doctor,
– a government order requires leave, or
– an employee has Covid-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis.

 80 hours of paid leave at 100% of their pay when the employee is caring:
– for someone who is at home on the recommendation of a doctor,
– for someone who has Covid-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis,
– for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable
because of Covid-19

 80 hours of paid leave at 100% of their pay when:
– a government order requires it

 10 weeks of paid leave at 2/3 of their regular rate of pay for employees staying at home
with children while schools are shuttered due to Covid-19.

Covered employers are generally employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers with
under 50 employees may qualify for an exemption if providing paid leave would cause them
to go out of business. Full and part-time employees are eligible.
Employers will be reimbursed 100% for the leave through tax credits.

Please contact the Houk Law Firm for assistance in understanding recently passed laws or
proposed legislation.

For more information, please see the following:

Department of Labor Guidelines for Employees 

Department of Labor Guidelines for Employers 

Department of Labor Guidance (Q&A)

Internal Revenue Service Press Release – Tax Credits for Employers



The information in this post is not intended to be legal advice for a specific situation.

Chris Houk speaks at NELA Conference

Today, founder of the Houk Law Firm, Chris Houk, had the great honor of presenting with Sixth Circuit Court Appeals Judge Bernice B. Donald at National Employment Lawyers Association’s Annual Convention on the topic of Implicit Bias. They spoke about recent implicit bias scholarship and strategies for rooting bias out of the litigation process. NELA is the largest organization of lawyers in the US who primarily represent employees and its local affiliates have about 4,000 members across the country. The Houk Law Firm remains committed to pursuing justice on behalf of our clients.


Supreme Court Protects LGBTQ Employees from Workplace Discrimination

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that employers can no longer discriminate against employees for being gay or transgender.

Until the Court’s decision, lower courts differed as to whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation when it prohibited employees because of “sex”.

Gerald Bostock—a gay man—was an employee of Clayton County, Georgia. Shortly after he participated in a gay softball league, he was fired without justification for “conduct unbecoming a county employee.” The Supreme Court ruled in a 6–3 decision written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump nominee, and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, in Bostock’s favor.

The Court focused on the plain language of the law to find that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily also discrimination because of sex:

“An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids. Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result. But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands. Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.” (emphasis added).

Now, employees who experience discrimination from their employers based on sexual orientation have a clear right to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and bring claims against their employers under Title VII.

A Chorus of Voices Condemn the Senseless Death of George Floyd

A myriad of voices around the nation have expressed outrage and mourning for the death of George Floyd.

In a resolution, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stated it “condemns” the “senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others”. It recognized its own “overwhelmingly bipartisan” creation as part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in response to marches in Washington, D.C. for “racial justice” acknowledging the existence of “institutionalized racism.”

Beyond political and legal spheres, religious leaders have called the public to action. Bishop Thomas Olmsted from the Diocese of Phoenix stated “racism is a sin” and that he “unites his voice with the Black community, people of color, and all who are working for an end to mistreatment, discrimination, and injustice.” He said: “I pray for the repose of the soul of George Floyd and the consolation of his grieving family and friends.” He also quoted Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles who said, “We should not let it be said that George Floyd died for no reason.”

On May 25, 2020, George was arrested on a charge of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On arrival to the scene, police officers handcuffed George face down with his arm behind his back. One officer placed his knee against George’s neck and held it for at least eight minutes while another officer prevented onlookers from intervening. Before he passed away, George could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe” and to his deceased mother, “Mama…I’m through.”

A common thread of preserving human dignity infuses civil rights laws. As one court put it, the purpose of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is to “liberate the workplace from the demeaning influence of discrimination, and thereby to implement the goals of human dignity and economic equality in employment.”

Unemployment Benefits During COVID-19

Here’s a short guide to unemployment benefits, with a special section on new benefits because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, a worker must be “unemployed,” which means the worker has not performed any services for the week they are seeking benefits and has no wages due to them. An employee who receives severance pay is not considered unemployed for the period of time the severance pay covers.

Arizona law defines the circumstances where an employee is not eligible for unemployment benefits. Those situations include:

  • Willful or negligent misconduct that includes:
    • Absence from work without notice or good cause;
    • Repeated intoxication;
    • Insubordination;
    • Dishonesty; or
    • Violation of a safety rule.

You can apply here for unemployment benefits. 

Recently, the CARES Act was enacted which temporarily extends current unemployment insurance (UI) protections by creating three federally-funded UI programs. Here’s a summary of the program:

  • All current UI claimants will receive their usual calculated benefit plus an additional $600 per week in compensation through July 31, 2020. This includes those already receiving partial UI. This new benefit is part of the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC). For more information, please click here.
    • Also, the CARES Act provides an additional 13 weeks of state UI benefits, which will become available after someone exhausts all their regular state UI benefits. To receive these benefits, employees must be actively engaged in searching for work, though states can be flexible if that person is unable to search for work due to Covid-19. The inability to search for work must be due to illness, quarantine, or movement restriction related to Covid-19. This is known as Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). For more information, please click here
    • Finally, the CARES Act provides emergency unemployment assistance to employees (1) who are usually left out of regular state UI or (2) who have exhausted their state UI benefits. 
      • Those who are usually left out of the regular state UI benefits include those who are
        • self-employed;
        • independent contractors;
        • freelancers;
        • part-time workers; and
        • employees who do not have long enough work history to qualify for state UI.
  • Up to 39 weeks of this assistance is available to eligible workers under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefit. The program will expire on December 31, 2020. For more information, please click here.

To apply for PUA, an employee must self-certify that they are (1) partially or fully unemployed, or (2) unable and unavailable to work because of Covid-19. To see if you qualify for PUA, please click here.

For more information about COVID-19 related paid-leave, please click here.

Unemployment Benefits When Working Reduced Hours 

Short-time-compensation, or work-sharing, programs allow an employee who, due to Covid-19, would be laid off, placed on furlough, or terminated. The work-share program allows an employee to remain employed for only a portion of the week and collect unemployment benefits on top of their regular pay. 

A workshare plan looks at the hours of work and provides individuals a pro-rata share of weekly benefits based on the reduction in weekly hours of work. An employee’s hours can be reduced up to 60% and still qualify for the Shared Work Program as long as their employer continues to provide health and retirement benefits to the employees.

The information in this post is not intended to be legal advice for a specific situation.

A Message from Christopher Houk

The work of doing justice, preserving the rule of law, enforcing rights and demanding
responsibility is critical at any time; that’s especially true during crises.

Here at the Houk Law Firm, we are committed to continuing to fight for you, no matter what is going on in the world. During this particular era, we will be nimble and creative in our approach to ensure that disputes are resolved efficiently and safely. To that end, we are doing the following:

 We are offering initial consultations via video conference so we can provide the best
service possible.
 We will discuss with you moving cases forward with virtual settlement conferences,
mediations, and depositions.
 We will keep abreast of the health developments in our community and the changing
legal landscape, so we can give incorporate the latest developments impacting your
cases into our advice.

Our work is important, so we will never stop finding new ways to give the best advice

Thank you.


The information in this post is not intended to be legal advice for a specific situation.

Get involved! The BBODP is recruiting for group 34!


Looking for a nonprofit or for-profit board to join? Consider becoming a member of the Black Board of Directors Project founded in 1983 by Marvin Perry. It’s open to everyone and is dedicated to advancing the leadership skills in the community. I’ve been a member for several years, and it has been a great experience. It has enabled me to find leadership positions on both for-profit and non-profit boards important to the community.

About the Black Board of Directors Project

The Black Board of Directors Project (BBODP), an advanced leadership program, was started in Phoenix in 1984 to fill various corporate, charitable and public policy-making boards and commissions at the local, state and national levels and other leadership positions.

In the organization’s 33-year history, BBODP has placed over members on various boards and commissions.

The information in this post is not intended to be legal advice for a specific situation.

Is “Go back where you came from” Workplace Harassment?

The answer is Yes. Phrases such as “Go back to where you came from” can form the basis of a hostile work environment claim, according to the EEOC, the Federal agency that enforces civil rights laws.

EEOC Harassment

In addition, the Ninth Circuit ruled in July 2019, in an unpublished opinion, that four racial slurs—including three uses of the “N” word—can constitute a hostile work environment. Christopher Houk, of the Houk Law Firm, PLLC, was part of the team that won the appeal in this case.

Language (including slurs, insults, or jokes) or conduct (including physical contact) in the workplace relating to race, national origin, color, sex, religion, age, or disability is illegal when it is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and creates an abuse or hostile work environment.

In its Enforcement Guidance on National Origin Discrimination, the EEOC references a case, EEOC v. WC&M Enterprises, Inc., where the court said that a hostile work environment could occur where managers, supervisors, and co-workers made the following comments to a practicing Muslim from India: “Muslim extremist,” “Why don’t you go back to where you came from?,” referred to him as a member of the Taliban, and inferred he was involved in the September 11 terrorist attack.

In 2017, in Castleberry v. STI Group  the Third Circuit ruled that one use of the “N” word could constitute a hostile work environment.

If you have questions about whether a situation at work may be a hostile work environment, please contact Houk Law Firm, PLLC to assist in determining your rights and responsibilities.

Want to join the discussion? Stop by the Houk Law Firm Facebook page at Facebook.com/HoukLawFirm


The information in this post is not intended to be legal advice for a specific situation.

Bobb Cooper & “The Magic That Is the Valley Youth Theatre”

Established in 1989, Valley Youth Theatre is a professional quality, non-profit theater dedicated to developing qualities in young people that are critical to a successful life: hard work, confidence, team building, and resilience. The Houk Law Firm supports the mission of the Valley Youth Theatre, an important community institution. Bobb Cooper, the Producing Artistic Director, spends some time talking about his life and “The Magic That Is the Valley Youth Theater.”

Bobb Cooper, Producing Artistic Director, Valley Youth Theatre

The information in this post is not intended to be legal advice for a specific situation.

Johnny Mack vs. Town of Pinetop

Christopher R. Houk of the Houk Law Firm PLLC was involved in the Ninth Circuit case of Johnny Mack vs Town of Pinetop. In that case, Johnny Mack was the subject of racial slurs and had a heart attack after a coworker placed a snake in his work vehicle. The Court said four racial slurs could constitute a hostile work environment and placing a snake in the work truck of a fellow co-worker who suffers a heart attack could be liable for causing intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case has been set for trial in January 2020.

Chris Houk