Bereavement Leave and Employee Support Amid COVID-19

Emery Gullickson Richards

As employers seek to support employees losing loved ones to the coronavirus COVID-19, thoughtful consideration of workplace measures takes on critical significance. How employers support employees through the loss of a loved one has an indelible impact on the lives of employees, the work environment, and the organization’s integrity. Bereavement leave policies address the unprecedented circumstances created by the mounting, tragic toll of COVID-19, providing support to employees at the time when they need it most. Although bereavement leave policies are not legally required in most jurisdictions in the United States, most U.S. employers offer some amount of paid bereavement leave.[1]

Bereavement Leave Laws

Only a small number of jurisdictions have bereavement leave laws. For example, the Oregon Family Leave Act (“OFLA”) provides employees at certain employers[2] in the state with the right to take protected leave to make funeral arrangements, attend a funeral, or to grieve a family member who has passed away. This bereavement leave may last for a period of up to two weeks and must be completed within 60 days of the employee learning of the death of their loved one. Similarly, the Illinois Child Bereavement Leave Act provides employees[3] with bereavement leave rights in the event of the loss of a child, and an employee who loses more than one child within a year may take up to six weeks of bereavement leave. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have considered similar laws. Recently, a Massachusetts resident created an online petition urging legislators to take up the cause again amid the coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the increased focus on these policies today. Continue reading “Bereavement Leave and Employee Support Amid COVID-19”

Another Round for the Garden State! New Jersey Again Changes Leave and Disability Benefits for COVID-19 Impacted Employees

Thomas J. Szymanski

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently signed S2374 into law, expanding the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) and New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law (“NJTDBL”) and providing additional employee protections during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and future epidemics, including (1) the expansion of reasons for leave; (2) certification changes; (3) intermittent use of such leave; (4) changes related to highly compensated employees; and (5) the expansion of the scope of compensable leave under NJTDBL. These changes are effective immediately and apply retroactively to March 25, 2020.

NJFLA—Expanded Reasons for Leave

During a state of emergency declared by the Governor, or when indicated to be needed by the Commissioner of Health or other public health authority, due to “an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to the communicable disease, or efforts to prevent spread of a communicable disease,” an employee may use NJFLA leave for the following new reasons:

    1. Childcare—to care for a child due to a school or daycare closure;
    2. Mandatory quarantine— to care for a family member subject to mandatory quarantine; and
    3. Voluntary self-quarantine—to care for a family member whose doctor recommends a voluntary self-quarantine.

Continue reading “Another Round for the Garden State! New Jersey Again Changes Leave and Disability Benefits for COVID-19 Impacted Employees”

NJ WARN Amended in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic

Asima J. Ahmad

On April 14, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 2353 into law, which excludes mass layoffs resulting from the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic from the notice and severance pay requirements contained in the Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act (“NJ WARN”). Prior to this change, employers faced uncertainty on whether they would be obligated to provide notice and severance pay to each full-time employee that was terminated with less than the required 60-days’ notice due to the pandemic.

Specifically, SB 2353 revises the definition of “mass layoff” to mirror the exceptions that are already contained in NJ WARN’s definition of “termination of operations.” As a result, a mass layoff which would otherwise require notice shall not include one “made necessary because of a fire, flood, natural disaster, national emergency, act of war, civil disorder or industrial sabotage, decertification from participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs as provided under Titles XVIII and XIX of the federal “Social Security Act,” Pub.L. 74-271 (42 U.S.C. s.1395 et seq.) or license revocation pursuant to P.L.1971, c.136 (C.26:2H-1 et al.).” These changes go into effect immediately and are retroactive to March 9, 2020, the date that Governor Murphy declared a COVID-19-based state of emergency and public health emergency in New Jersey via Executive Order 103. Continue reading “NJ WARN Amended in Light of COVID-19 Pandemic”

Pennsylvania Requires Life-Sustaining Businesses to Implement Significant New COVID-19 Safety Measures

Mark Blondman and Frederick G. Sandstrom

The Pennsylvania Secretary of Health issued an Order on April 15 imposing significant additional “safety measures” on life-sustaining businesses that have been permitted to maintain in-person operations during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The Order might also be a preview of requirements that may be more broadly implemented in connection with an eventual general reopening of businesses in the Commonwealth. The order is available here.

The Order requires all businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations to implement specific “distancing, mitigation and cleaning protocols” by 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 19. These protocols include an obligation to “provide masks for employees” and to “make it a mandatory requirement to wear masks while on the work site.”

The Order covers three areas: (1) protocols for day-to-day operations by all life-sustaining businesses; (2) specific protocols life-sustaining businesses must follow upon exposure to a person with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19; and (3) additional protocols for life-sustaining businesses, other than healthcare providers, that serve the public within a building or defined area. Continue reading “Pennsylvania Requires Life-Sustaining Businesses to Implement Significant New COVID-19 Safety Measures”

City of LA Publishes Rules and Regulations Clarifying COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Order

Caitlin I. Sanders

As we previously reported, on April 7, 2020, Los Angeles City Mayor Garcetti issued an emergency order calling for supplemental paid sick leave for City employees who are not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and who must miss work for reasons related to COVID-19. On April 11, 2020, the Los Angeles Office of Wage Standards (“OWS”) issued rules and regulations clarifying Mayor Garcetti’s supplemental paid sick leave order. The rules and regulations can be found on the OWS website here.

The OWS anticipates updating these rules and regulations, and we will continue to monitor the OWS for the latest guidance.

For the latest updates, please visit Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force page.

Understanding Paid Sick Leave and Family Leave in New York Following the Enactment of Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Christopher Cody Wilcoxson, Anthony A. Mingione, and Mark Blondman

On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Senate Bill 8091 (the “NY Act”) providing coronavirus COVID-19 relief for affected employees. Blank Rome’s Coronavirus Task Force covered the immediate enactment on our Blank Rome Workplace Blog. The NY Act provides sick leave and benefits that are in excess of those provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which President Donald Trump signed into law on the same day. Blank Rome’s Coronavirus Task Force detailed the FFCRA when it was enacted; and provided updated guidance on March 25, 2020.

Employers in New York are required to comply with both the NY Act and the FFCRA and must determine whether any benefits in excess of those provided by FFCRA are required. This update summarizes several of the key differences between the New York and federal benefits.

What Employers Are Covered?

NY ACT: All employers are subject to the NY Act; however, benefits vary based on the size and net income of the employer.

FFCRA: Only businesses with fewer than 500 employees within the United States are subject to the FFCRA. Continue reading “Understanding Paid Sick Leave and Family Leave in New York Following the Enactment of Families First Coronavirus Response Act”

Emergency COVID-19 Order Issued in City of Los Angeles: Additional Paid Sick Leave Requirements for Large LA Employers

Caitlin I. Sanders

On April 7, 2020, Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an Emergency Order requiring certain employers to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave to employees who are not covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act for reasons related to COVID-19. The Emergency Order can be found on Mayor Garcetti’s website here.

Here are the basic provisions of Mayor Garcetti’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Leave Order (“Order”):

Who Is Covered by the Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Order?

Employers with 500 or more employees within the City of Los Angeles or 2,000 or more employees nationally may be required to provide supplemental paid sick leave to employees who are unable to work or telework if they meet the following criteria: (i) they have worked for the same employer from February 3, 2020, through March 4, 2020, and (ii) they perform work in the City of Los Angeles.

Emergency and health services, parcel delivery services, and government agency employees are expressly exempt from the Order. Continue reading “Emergency COVID-19 Order Issued in City of Los Angeles: Additional Paid Sick Leave Requirements for Large LA Employers”

COVID-19 Workplace Exposures: But What Do We Do When Employees Come Back?

Anthony A. Mingione

Employers have been reeling over the past few weeks. As the coronavirus has spread, it has touched on all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. Stay-at-home orders; essential business designations; facility closures; reductions in staffing needs; and a myriad of federal, state, and local enactments and directives have radically changed the way businesses interact with their workers. Most of the changes have focused on how to allow individuals the necessary time off to recover from COVID-19, care for loved ones, and comply with stay-at-home orders, all while keeping businesses going.

The dust has certainly not settled on a lot of those issues, but another issue has begun to arise—as people recover from infection and quarantines expire, how do businesses safely reintroduce them into the workplace? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidelines (which it has already updated more than once), now many states do as well, and even some localities are getting involved. The rules of the road for the post-coronavirus workplace are beginning to take shape. Temperature scans, deep cleaning, social distancing, and out-of-work conduct are just some of the topics these regulations and different pieces of guidance consider.

The labor and employment members of the Blank Rome Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force are ready to assist businesses in navigating these new rules every step of the way. When your employees are ready come back, we’ll be there to help.

For the latest updates, please visit Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force page.

UPDATE: DOL Issues Families First Coronavirus Response Act Guidance on Employer Coverage and Obligations to Provide Paid Sick and Family and Medical Leave

Jason E. Reisman and Taylor C. Morosco

Yesterday evening, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) published its first round of guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which takes effect on April 1, 2020.[1]

The guidance—provided in a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers, and Questions and Answers—answered some of the high-level questions employers have been asking. This update summarizes several of those important answers. However, more guidance is needed and expected in the coming days.

What is the FFCRA?

COVID-19 legislation that contains two key paid leave acts—the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

In a nutshell, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act entitles employees to paid sick leave when they cannot work or telework due certain COVID-19-related circumstances affecting the employee or someone for whom the employee is caring.[2] The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act provides paid leave for employees caring for a child due to school or childcare provider closures related to COVID-19. For an overview of both Acts, check out Blank Rome’s Update.

When is a business covered by FFCRA?

When a business employs fewer than 500 employees within the United States. Continue reading “UPDATE: DOL Issues Families First Coronavirus Response Act Guidance on Employer Coverage and Obligations to Provide Paid Sick and Family and Medical Leave”

How Work Sharing Saves Labor Costs and Confronts Uncertainty

Emery Gullickson Richards

“Work sharing” allows employers to reduce employee wages or hours instead of doing a layoff or furlough by reducing the hours of retained employees subject to a specific plan created by the employer. Work sharing enables employees to keep their jobs while simultaneously receiving unemployment benefits to supplement the lost income. At present, 27 states have enacted work sharing programs (oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/docs/stc_fact_sheet.pdf), though the requirements and benefits vary from state to state.

What is work sharing? Work sharing, also called “short-term compensation,” should not be confused with job sharing, which allows two part-time employees to share one full-time job. Instead, “work sharing” refers to cutting workers’ hours to avoid cutting workers’ jobs, effectively sharing the burden across employees when an employer has to scale back labor costs due to financial pressures, such as those presented by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Reducing hours instead of reducing headcount saves money, saves morale, and saves the maximum number of employees for when business levels later return to pre-emergency levels. Continue reading “How Work Sharing Saves Labor Costs and Confronts Uncertainty”