Author: Elizabeth Cowit

The DOL Amends FFCRA Paid Leave Rule

The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“DOL”) recently announced amendments to regulations regarding the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). By way of background, and as discussed in detail in our prior blog post, the FFCRA provides two types of leave to employees of covered employers (private employers with fewer than 500 employees and public employers of any size, with certain exceptions) – emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and expanded family and medical leave (EFML). An employee may be eligible for 80 hours of EPSL if he or she is unable to work or telework (without regard to the employee’s length of employment) if the employee: Is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; Has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19; Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; Is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order, or has “been advised” to self-quarantine; Is caring for a child, because the child’s school or place of care has been closed (or the child’s care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or Is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health...

New Jersey Supreme Court Confirms Enforceability of Arbitration Agreements Concerning Transportation Workers Under the NJAA

In Colon v. Strategic Delivery Solutions, LLC and Arafa v. Health Express. Corp., plaintiffs contracted with corporate defendants to provide transportation and delivery services as independent contractors and signed arbitration agreements governing the terms and conditions under which they were to provide services. The agreements at issue explicitly referenced the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”), but neither referenced the New Jersey Arbitration Act (“NJAA”). In both cases, plaintiffs brought claims in New Jersey Superior Court asserting they were misclassified as independent contractors and alleging violations of wage payment and wage hour laws, and in both cases, defendants sought to compel arbitration and dismiss the lawsuits. Both trial courts granted the respective employers’ motions to dismiss the claims and compel arbitration, and plaintiffs appealed these decision to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. As detailed in a prior blog post, in June 2019, different panels of the Appellate Division issued divergent holdings concerning the appeals. The Colon panel observed that both the FAA and NJAA “favor arbitration” as a way to resolve disputes, and that the NJAA “governs all agreements to arbitrate” entered into on or after January 1, 2003 (with limited exceptions that did not apply). It further found that the FAA “does not occupy the entire field of arbitration” and, therefore, the...

EEOC Updates “COVID-19 Technical Assistance Questions and Answers” with a Focus on Return-to-Work Guidance

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is continuing to offer COVID-19 related guidance to support employers and employees in navigating the workplace during the pandemic. As we discussed in a previous blog post, the EEOC updated its Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act guidance (first published in 2009) to specifically address the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the Pandemic Preparedness guidance, the EEOC has issued What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws, technical assistance guidance that contains numerous COVID-19 related questions and answers. Similar to the pandemic preparedness guidance, the technical assistance addresses employer’s obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), specifically as they relate to accommodation requests and medical exams due to COVID-19, as well as other COVID-19 related workplace issues. The EEOC has continued to regularly update the technical assistance since its initial publication in March 2020, with the most recent updates in June 2020. The EEOC has explained that EEO laws like the ADA and Rehabilitation Act continue to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic, but do not interfere with or prevent employers from following guidelines and suggestions made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or state and local public health authorities concerning preventative...

Reopening Considerations for New Jersey: What Employers Need to Know About OSHA

As New Jersey begins to reopen under Governor Murphy’s reopening plan and more employees prepare to return to their physical workplaces, employers must continue to navigate a myriad of federal, state, and local guidance regarding how to best protect their workforces and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While many employers, particularly those outside of the construction industry, may not be used to regular dealings with the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all employers must consider OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidelines as they prepare reopening plans. While OSHA’s reopening guidance is advisory in nature, employers should remember that the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s (“OSH Act”) General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1)) requires all employers to provide employees with workplaces that are free from recognized harms that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm, which could include exposure to COVID-19. Thus, employers should be careful to ensure that their reopening plans comply with OSHA’s guidelines (along with more stringent state or local guidelines if they exist). The OSHA Guidelines categorize risk of worker exposure to COVID-19 from low to very high and lay out specific measures of protection that are recommended at each risk level. Employers should consult this portion of the Guidelines for specific guidance. The Guidelines also outline more...

New York Issues Guidance on Use of Sick Leave and Paid Family Leave for COVID-19

As discussed previously, New York recently passed a COVID-19 sick leave law that provides job protection and paid leave for employees who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 (“COVID-19 quarantine leave” or “quarantine leave”). New York State has since published guidance (“Guidance”) and FAQs relating to the COVID-19 sick leave law (“FAQs”), which discuss, among other things, how employees may be compensated under the new law, through a combination of benefits that include COVID-19 sick leave, New York’s Paid Family Leave (PFL), and short-term disability (DBL) benefits while in quarantine. Under the COVID-19 sick leave law, as clarified by the Guidance and FAQs: An employee who works for a small employer – one with ten or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020 (with a net income of less than $1 million in the prior tax year) – and is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, department of health, local board of health, or any other government entity authorized to issue such an order due to COVID-19 (“quarantine order”) is entitled to unpaid sick leave until the termination of the quarantine order. The employee may also be eligible to receive compensation for the duration...

Amendments to Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Act Bring New Notice Obligations and Temporary Relief for COVID-19 Related Unemployment Benefit Charges for Employers

In connection with the continuing challenges arising from COVID-19, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf recently signed into law amendments to Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Law, which are included in Act 9 of 2020 (“the Act”). The Act imposes new notice obligations on employers and includes “emergency provisions” that relax eligibility and access requirements for individuals filing COVID-19 related unemployment benefit claims and, among other things, provide relief to employers for charges incurred under certain circumstances. Some key provisions of the Act are discussed more fully below. New Notice Requirements The Act adds a new section (206.1) to Pennsylvania’s Unemployment Compensation Law, requiring employers to now provide separating employees with notice about the availability of unemployment compensation, regardless of whether the employer is liable for payment of contributions to the state’s unemployment compensation system. Although the Act is silent about the required form of notice, it must include the following information: Availability of unemployment compensation benefits to workers who are unemployed and qualify for benefits; An employee’s ability to file an unemployment compensation claim in the first week that employment stops or work hours are reduced; Availability of assistance and information about unemployment compensation claims on the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industries, Office of Unemployment Compensation’s website – www.uc.pa.gov – or at the department’s toll-free number, which...

New Jersey Further Expands Family Leave and Temporary Disability Benefits in the Wake of COVID-19

On April 14, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law Senate Bill S2374, which further amends the New Jersey Family Leave Act (FLA) and the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law (TDBL), including the Family Leave Insurance program (FLI), expanding on prior amendments signed into law on March 25, 2020 (included in Senate Bill 2304), as part of the state’s initial response to the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. These amendments are effective immediately and apply retroactively to leave taken on or after March 25, 2020. As the pandemic has continued, so too have the Legislature’s attempts to address its impact on New Jersey citizens, which have included efforts to protect New Jersey employees who are in need of temporary leave and/or income replacement benefits as a result of circumstances caused by COVID-19. Prior to the COVID-19 related amendments, eligible employees working for covered employers could, under the FLA, take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in any 24-month period for the following three reasons: The birth of a child, including a child born pursuant to a valid written agreement between the employee and a gestational carrier The adoption or foster care placement of a child Caretaking for a family member with a serious health condition As discussed in our prior blog post,...

New York State Enacts Expansive Statewide Sick Leave Law

On April 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law New York State’s fiscal year 2021 budget, which adds a new section 196-b to the New York Labor Law to include sick leave requirements for New York employers of all sizes, and which the Governor’s office has described as the strongest paid sick leave law in the nation. Although employees may not begin to use sick leave under the new law until January 1, 2021, current employees begin to accrue leave on September 30, 2020. (As discussed in our prior blog, the State also recently passed a COVID-19 sick leave law that provides leave for New York employees who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.) Key provisions of the new law are summarized below. Amount and Accrual of Sick Leave The amount of sick leave an employer must provide employees, and whether such leave must be paid, depends on an employer’s size, and for certain employers, income level. Employers with four or fewer employees in any calendar year must provide employees with up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave in any calendar year; except that if such an employer has a net income of greater than $1,000,000 in the previous tax year, the leave must be...

New Jersey Supreme Court Allows Disability Discrimination Claim Brought by Medical Marijuana User Employee to Move Forward

Last month, New Jersey’s high court ruled in Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc. that an employee’s disability discrimination claim brought under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), arising from being terminated for his use of medical marijuana, was not barred by the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA), and that he had sufficiently stated his claim to survive a motion to dismiss. Plaintiff, a funeral director, brought suit against defendant-employer/Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc. (“Carriage”), and others, based on, among other things, allegations that defendants violated the LAD by terminating him due to his disability and failing to accommodate him, as a result of his lawful use of medical marijuana for treatment of his cancer, as permitted by the CUMMA and in accordance with his physician’s treatment plan. Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint, and the trial court granted the motion, with prejudice, finding plaintiff was lawfully terminated for violating Carriage’s drug use policy after a positive drug test, given to him by his employer after plaintiff’s car was struck by another vehicle while plaintiff was driving for work purposes. In reaching its decision, the trial court relied, in part, on the CUMMA’s declaration that employers are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use in the workplace. Plaintiff appealed, and the Appellate...

The U.S. Department of Labor Issues Updated Guidance on the FFCRA’s Paid Leave Provisions

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to upend our day-to-day routines and creates new questions for employers and employees alike, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued and updated guidance on the Families First Corona Response Act (FFCRA), which became effective on April 1, 2020. The FFCRA provides for two types of paid leave: leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA). As a follow-up to our recent blog post, which explored the new legislation in-depth, this article identifies and explains the key points in the DOL’s most recent guidance on the FFCRA’s leave provisions. Which Employers Must Comply with FFCRA’s Paid Leave Provisions? Employers who have fewer than 500 employees at the time an employee requests to take leave are governed by the FFCRA. In calculating the number of employees for coverage purposes, employers must take into account full-time and part-time employees, employees who are already on leave, temporary employees who are jointly employed with another employer, and day laborers. Independent contractors are not considered employees for purposes of calculating the 500-employee threshold. Generally, two or more entities are separate employers for purposes of the 500-employee threshold, unless the entities meet the integrated employer test under the Family and Medical...