While our nation struggles with the rapidly evolving events concerning the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to provide some helpful resources to current clients, past clients and other website visitors who have employment questions during this difficult time. We are available by phone and email to answer your questions and provide you with more specific guidance.
The health and well-being of our clients, employees and fellow New Jersey residents is paramount. So while we will be available by telephone and email, consistent with the guidance we have received from the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local health departments, we are asking that clients not come to the office for in-person meetings without further discussion and advanced arrangements.
However, we want to help you, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us, either though the main office number, email, the website, etc., so that we can get back to you on your questions.
Key Areas of Legal/Regulatory Concern
- Executive Order No. 104:
Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 104 on March 16, 2020, implementing aggressive social distancing measures to mitigate further spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey.
Among the directives, Governor Murphy’s Executive Order indefinitely closes all public and private preschool, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education, as well as closes all casinos, racetracks, gyms, movie theaters, and performing arts centers. The order mandates that all nonessential retail, recreational, and entertainment businesses cease daily operations from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m, and restaurants, with or without a liquor license, are limited to offering only delivery and/or take out-services.
Furthermore, the Executive Order directs (i) all gatherings of persons in the State of New Jersey to be limited to 50 persons or fewer, with limited exceptions; (ii) all public, private, and parochial preschool programs, and elementary and secondary schools to be closed; and (iii) all casinos, concert venues, nightclubs, racetracks, gyms, fitness centers and classes, movie theaters, and performing arts centers will be closed to the public.
These restrictions are to remain in effect until amendment or rescission of the Executive Order.
- NJ DOL and Federal Sick Leave and Unemployment Insurance Issues:
A number of business clients have indicated that they are considering workforce realignments and reductions as a result of COVID-19 and the actual and anticipated impact of the pandemic and governmental and social response to it. In considering how, whether and when to react, there are several characteristics of New Jersey’s labor laws and rules that you should bear in mind.
The first are state and federal sick leave requirements for those impacted by COVID-19. New Jersey has a robust set of earned sick leave laws and rules. Full time, part time, and temporary employees are able to earn up to 40 hours of earned sick leave a year.
New Jersey Department of Labor (NJ DOL) guidance with respect to COVID-19 indicate that employees who (i) test positive for COVID-19, (ii) have symptoms of COVID-19, (iii) have been quarantined as a result of possible COVID-19 exposure, (iv) have to stay home to care for children whose schools have been closed, and/or (v) are not able to work because their businesses have been ordered closed for COVID-19 related reasons, could all qualify for sick leave benefits under New Jersey law.
Below are two fact sheets from NJ DOL covering employee rights as they pertain to COVID-19 (Earned Sick Leave, Unemployment Insurance Benefits, Temporary Disability, and Workers Compensation). Note that while terminated employees are not entitled to pay-out of unused earned sick leave benefits, if they are rehired within six months those days are restored to their sick leave “bank.”
If you are considering eliminating positions or reducing employee hours to respond to COVID-19, be aware that employees who have had their jobs reduced by at least 20% may qualify for partial unemployment benefits to make up at least a portion of the income reduction.
If employers are required to voluntarily suspend operations entirely as a result of COVID-19, NJ DOL has indicated that will be treated as a temporary layoff, entitling employees to unemployment insurance.
We understand that Congress has passed and the President has signed, a package of relief measures that will, among many other things, provide coverage to employees for COVID-19 testing and also mandate COVID-19 related sick leave of up to 10 days in certain defined circumstances for employers employing 500 or fewer people (with waivers possible for employers having fewer than 50 people and institutions employing healthcare workers).
Here is a link to what appears to be a comprehensive and clear article that just appeared on the website of Jackson Lewis PC, a well-regarded national firm that specializes in management side employment work. https://www.jacksonlewis.com/publication/new-employer-obligations-under-slightly-revised-families-first-coronavirus-act-hr-6201
Other Useful Resources
We have found the following websites to be particularly useful and would refer website visitors to them for further guidance:
- Text of Executive Order 104: https://nj.gov/infobank/eo/056murphy/pdf/EO-104.pdf
- CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers:
- NJ DOL Fact Sheet Regarding COVID-19 and Employee Sick Leave: https://www.nj.gov/labor/worker-protections/earnedsick/covid.shtml
- NJ DOL Fact Sheet Regarding COVID-19 Scenarios and Benefits Available: https://www.nj.gov/labor/assets/PDFs/COVID-19%20SCENARIOS.pdf
- NJ DOH Webpage Regarding COVID-19 for Schools and Business: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/covid2019_schoolbusiness.shtml
- Business NJ.Gov Fact Sheet Regarding Resources for Small Business Owners: https://faq.business.nj.gov/en/articles/3789809-what-financial-resources-or-assistance-are-available-for-my-business-from-the-u-s-small-business-administration-sba-and-the-state
- Business NJ.Gov Fact Sheet Regarding Executive Order 104 and Impact on Small Businesses: https://faq.business.nj.gov/en/articles/3799035-how-do-the-rules-on-closures-and-social-distancing-affect-my-business
- OSHA Fact Sheet regarding COVID-19: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html