Category: Employee Benefits

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,...

Pennsylvania Issues New Executive Order Mandating Additional COVID-19 Disease Control Measures

On April 15, 2020, the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued an order aiming to blunt the continued and expansive spread of COVID-19 throughout Pennsylvania (“Order”). The Order, which took effect on April 19, 2020, requires additional disease control measures to further protect workers and customers of any life-sustaining business (“Business”) that has remained open during the COVID-19 disaster emergency. The original list of Businesses can be found here, and includes companies such as healthcare service providers; restaurants offering carry-out, delivery, or drive-through services; food, medical equipment, and chemical manufacturers; and utility and telecommunication companies, among others. The Order requires any such Business, other than a healthcare provider, to implement certain social distancing, mitigation, and cleaning protocols. These measures are in addition to those included in Pennsylvania’s April 6, 2020 building safety measures executive order, which requires covered businesses to clean and disinfect high-touch areas in accordance with CDC guidelines in spaces accessible to customers, tenants, or other individuals, and maintain pre-existing cleaning protocols established in the facility for all other areas of the building, ensure the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform the required cleaning protocols effectively and in a manner ensuring the safety of occupants and workers, and make sure that the facility has a sufficient number of...

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...

The U.S. DOL Issues Updated Guidance on CARES Act Unemployment Programs

Since our March 28, 2020 post, “Phase Three COVID-19 Response Bill Now Law: What it Means for Businesses and Employees,” the United States Department of Labor (DOL) has issued three additional Unemployment Insurance Program Letters (UIPL), No. 15-20, No. 16-20, and No. 17-20, to provide additional guidance to states on the administration of the three unemployment insurance programs available under the CARES Act. UIPL No. 15-20 UIPL No. 15-20, issued on April 4, 2020, addresses Section 2104 of the CARES Act—Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits—which provides “eligible” individuals who are already collecting state-provided unemployment benefits an additional $600 per week in federal benefits through July 31, 2020. Who is eligible for the additional $600 FPUC payments? Individuals collecting regular unemployment compensation under state programs, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Extended Benefits (EB), Short-Time Compensation (STC), Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA), Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), and Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program. FPUC is not available, however, for those receiving “additional benefits” (referred to as “extended benefits” by state UC programs) that extend the duration of benefits during high unemployment to those in approved training programs who have exhausted benefits, or for several other reasons. Individuals must be eligible for and receiving benefits under the above programs in order to be...

Employers Must Act Fast: Families First Coronavirus Response Act Signed Into Law

To follow up on our recent blog post, “Workplace Planning for Coronavirus Concerns,” we are summarizing for our clients the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which President Trump signed into law on March 18, 2020. The House of Representative passed an earlier bill on March 14, but – two days later – revisited and significantly altered the bill on March 16, before sending it to the Senate for consideration. On March 18, the Senate passed the revised House version with no changes, and, that same day, the amended bill was signed into law. The FFCRA takes effect not later than April 2, 2020 (15 days after its enactment) and expires on December 31, 2020. With respect to employers, it contains certain provisions of particular note, including the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, discussed below. Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (“Emergency FMLA” or the “Act”) applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees (“covered employers”). Employees who have been employed by a covered employer for 30 calendar days are eligible for up to 12 weeks of emergency paid family medical leave due to a “qualifying need” arising from “a public health emergency” with respect to COVID-19...

Governor Cuomo Takes Action in Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

New York now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and, unfortunately, the number continues to increase on a daily basis. In efforts to contain the spread of the virus and support those employees who have been impacted, Governor Cuomo and the legislature have acted swiftly to enact responsive laws. Relief for Employees on Orders of Quarantine or Isolation On March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law Senate Bill S809/ Assembly Bill A10153, which provides job protection and paid leave for New York employees subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation issued by the State of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any governmental entity duly authorized to issue such orders due to COVID-19. The law is effective immediately and provides sick leave to affected employees as follows: Employers with ten or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020 and a net income less than $1 million must provide affected employees with unpaid sick leave, along with job protection for the duration of the quarantine or isolation order and must provide those employees with access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine or isolation including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000. Employers...

Workplace Planning for Coronavirus Concerns

As coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, employers continue to inquire how they can safeguard employees’ health and well-being while ensuring the ability to maintain essential business operations. Our advice remains the same: The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure. Working from home for as many employees as possible is now the new normal for most businesses. In addition, employers large and small should take the time now to assess their policies and processes, addressing specific operational and human resources plans and issues in light of the current and evolving circumstances, as well as anticipated plans as a result of the pending Families First Coronavirus Response Act. On March 14, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” (H.R. 6201), which provides for a limited period of paid sick leave and expands the Family Medical Leave Act to provide an extended period of unpaid or partially paid leave for a public health emergency. The bill is now before the Senate, where it is expected to pass sometime this week. The bill contains several provisions that will impact employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers should not make any changes to their policies and procedures until the bill is finalized...

New Jersey Department of Labor Issues Final Regulations for Earned Sick Leave Law

The New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law (“ESLL”), which became effective in October 2018, requires New Jersey employers, among other things, to provide their employees with one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 40 hours annual paid sick leave. Such leave may be used for an employee to care for their own or a family member’s physical or mental health or injury; address domestic or sexual violence against themselves or a family member; attend a child’s school-related meeting, conference or event; or take care of their children when school or child care is closed due to an epidemic or public health emergency. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (“NJDOL” or “Department”) recently issued final regulations for the ESLL (“final regulations” or “regulations”), ending more than a year of waiting for employers, from the time the NJDOL issued proposed ESLL rules (“proposed rules”), for which the 60-day comment period ended in December 2018. The regulations can be found here. The final regulations do not contain much in the way of substantive changes as compared to the proposed rules, but include extensive responses to more than 100 public comments, and provide guidance to employers attempting to navigate the ESLL’s complicated requirements. Some highlights of the regulations are...

Governor Murphy Signs New Jersey Paid Sick Leave Law

On May 2, 2018, Governor Murphy signed the comprehensive paid sick leave bill passed by the New Jersey Legislature in April. For a description of the law and how it will affect New Jersey employers, please see our previous blog post. For questions regarding this bill, or paid sick leave laws generally, please feel free to contact an attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.