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March 26, 2020
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      DISCLAIMER:
Directions and guidance from federal, state and local authorities are evolving as they continue to assess and react to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are monitoring these changes and will make every effort to keep our clients and
colleagues informed.



  
REMINDER: Families First Coronavirus Response Act Goes into Effect April 1, 2020
         
     As we previously reported , President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) on March 18, 2020. As of this writing, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) has stated that FFCRA will go into effect on April 1, 2020. Under FFCRA, employers with 500 or fewer employees will be required to provide paid sick leave and paid family leave to their employees for reasons related to the coronavirus (COVID-19)

     FFCRA requires employers to post a notice regarding the new rights and obligations. The USDOL has issued a poster that meets the notice requirements. Employers should post the notice in conspicuous place at their place of businesses. Employers whose employees are working remotely can satisfy this posting requirement by emailing or directly mailing this notice to their employees or by posting it on the employer's intranet or external website that provides information for employees. The USDOL is also working on translating its poster into other languages for non-English speaking employees.

     Though the bill goes into effect on April 1, the USDOL has stated that it will not bring enforcement actions against all covered employers for violating the FFCRA if any violations occurred between March 18 through April 17, 2020. The employer must have made reasonable and good faith efforts to comply with the FFCRA to be protected by this 30-day non-enforcement period.

     New York employers have already implemented changes to their paid sick leave and family leave policies to adhere to the new state laws issued in response to COVID-19. Employers will now have to further amend their leave policies to adhere to FFCRA.

     For questions on how the new federal law may affect your business's sick leave and family leave policies, please contact Chaim Book at cbook@mb-llp.com , Sheryl Galler at sgaller@mb-llp.com , or Jennifer Kim at jkim@mb-llp.com .
  



  
Potential Unemployment Insurance Benefits for Independent Contractors  
    
     Governor Cuomo and others have called on President Trump to provide unemployment assistance through federal funds for independent contractors and gig economy workers who are otherwise unable to collect unemployment benefits. As of this writing, a $2 trillion stimulus package was passed by the Senate, which would expand unemployment benefits coverage to include independent contractors, self-employed individuals and other gig economy workers.
  
     We will continue to monitor developments on this topic in the news and make every effort to update our clients and colleagues as timely as possible.


 
New Jersey's Bills in Response 
to the COVID-19 Pandemic
   
On March 16, 2020, the New Jersey legislature proposed a package of bills in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some of the bills were signed into law on March 20, 2020 by Governor Murphy and took effect immediately. All the bills in this package are intended to provide relief to individuals, the healthcare system, businesses, schools, and city governments. Directly relevant to employers and employees are the following bills:

  • Job-protected Leave Due to COVID-19 (A-3848/S-2301) - Effective March 20, 2020, under this new state law, no employer is allowed to terminate or otherwise penalize an employee who requests time off from work because he or she is infected or potentially infected with COVID-19. The employee must submit documentation by a licensed healthcare professional. After the employee takes time off as recommended by his or her healthcare professional, the employer must restore the employee back to the position (with the same salary, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment) that the employee held prior to taking off from work. Failure to adhere to these requirements will result in the employer being fined $2,500 for each violation of this law, along with an order by the state's Labor and Workforce Development or the court to reinstate the employee as required. The aggrieved employee may also file a complaint with the state's Labor and Workforce Development or the court to seek reinstatement.

  • Grants for Businesses (A-3845/S-2284) - Effective March 20, 2020, in relevant part, this new state law permits the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) to provide grants to businesses during "periods of emergency"-one such as the COVID-19 pandemic-as declared by the Governor and throughout the period of economic difficulties that continue to exist due to such emergency. The EDA can provide grants to businesses to, for instance, plan, design, acquire, construct, improve, equip, and furnish projects, including, but not limited to, grants for working capital and meeting payroll requirements, during the COVID-19 emergency. The EDA is authorized to further use monies in the Economic Recovery Fund-an existing special non-lapsing fund-to assist small and medium-size businesses and non-profit organizations to plan, design, acquire, construct, improve, equip, and furnish projects during the COVID-19 emergency period. For more information and updates on such grants offered by the EDA, you can visit this webpage.

  • Relief Fund for Lost Wages (A-3846/S-2293) - The bill proposes to appropriate a total of $20,000,000 to create a "Temporary Lost Wage Unemployment Program" ("Fund") during the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to $10,000,000 will be distributed from the Fund to compensate any employee who lost wages because (i) the employee was sick; (ii) the employee was caring for a family member; (iii) the employee was caring for his or her child because of school closure; and (iv) other reasons deemed appropriate by the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. Another $10,000,000 will be set aside from the Fund to reimburse employers who paid employees who were unable to work due while quarantined in accordance with the recommendation of a licensed healthcare professional. Employees and employers seeking compensation from the Fund must file an application and supporting documentation within 3 months after the end of the state of emergency concerning COVID-19 is announced by the Governor or the U.S. President, whichever is later. Individuals who receive unemployment benefits for a certain period cannot additionally receive benefits through the Fund during that period. The bill will be effective immediately upon the Governor's signature. The legislature passed the bill on March 19, 2020 and, as of this writing, it awaits the Governor's signature.

     For more information on any of these New Jersey bills signed or proposed in response to COVID-19, please contact Chaim Book at cbook@mb-llp.com , Sheryl Galler at sgaller@mb-llp.com , or Jennifer Kim at jkim@mb-llp.com .




  
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