Covid-19: How New Legislation Can Affect Your Employees

Covid-19 Unemployment Regulation Updates

In these unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is conflicting and changing information out there.  For this reason you may wish to discuss these new laws with an attorney.

Below are highlights of some the recently enacted legislation that may affect your business.

  • Governor Cuomo has enacted a law to provide benefits – including sick leave, paid family leave, and disability benefits – to New York employees impacted by mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19. If employers don’t comply with this then employees may have the right to file a complaint.
  • Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order 202.8 on March 20thwhich required a 100% reduction in the in-person workforce of all non-essential businesses. This order is scheduled until sunset on April 19, 2020 but may be subject to extensions. One large question you make seek to address is whether your business is an essential or non-essential business. If a non-essential business, employees may not be forced to go to the worksite or be otherwise threatened if they do not work at a place other than their home.
  • On March 27, 2020 Empire State Development of New York State issued further guidance on the classification of essential businesses which can be found.

New York state’s modified sick leave regulations focus on the number of employees that you may have, it makes provisions as follows:

  • If your business has 10 or less employees combined with a net income of less than $1 million, you must provide employees with job protections during quarantine along with paid family leave and disability benefits.
  • If your business has 11-99 employees, or 10 or fewer employees but a net income of greater than $1 million you must provide employees with at least 5 days of paid sick leave. After this, employees must also have access to family leave and disability benefits.
  • If your business has 100 or more employees, of if you are a public employer, employees must be provided with a minimum of 14 days paid sick leave and job protections.
  • It is important to note that these regulations are specific to New York State, and depending on circumstances different Federal legislation may apply.

Federally, on March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “FFCRA”). This applies to employers with less than 500 employees and provides an Emergency Expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act or “FMLA”, and Emergency Paid Sick Leave. This amends the FMLA of 1993 and provides up to 12 weeks of job protected leave, 10 of which are paid subject to caps who have a “qualifying need related to public health emergencies.” The new type of leave can be used by an employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child if their school has closed. The first two weeks under this act are unpaid while following weeks are paid at 2/3 of your salary.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act creates a requirement for employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 10 days of paid sick leave (full-time employees get up to 80 hours) at a regular rate of pay if they are quarantining or seeking treatment related to Covid-19. Further caps and restrictions apply to this leave, while an employer who violates the Emergency Pay Act will be considered to be in violation of the FLSA and be subject to penalties in the FLSA.

Meanwhile, there are further exemptions to these regulations, for one, the DOL may issue regulations exempting small businesses if they have less than 50 employees and the viability of the business becomes jeopardized.

If you would like to discuss the new regulations further with qualified employment law attorneys in New York you can contact us, the best way to do so is through our online contact form.