On March 25, 2020, New Jersey passed another law to help ease the burden faced by employees who must miss work due to COVID-19. The new law allows employees affected by COVID-19 to utilize New Jersey’s Earned Sick Leave Act, Family Leave Act, Temporary Disability Insurance, or Family Leave Insurance. The most significant change to these laws is that it provides benefits to employees who must be quarantined or care for a family member who must be quarantined.
Employers operating in New Jersey who find themselves needing to reduce their workforces for reasons related to COVID-19 should seek guidance from counsel with regard to the application of obligations set forth in New Jersey’s WARN Act (“NJ WARN”). In addition to the federal law, New Jersey’s version, which is considered one of the nation’s most stringent, requires employers to provide employees with notice of a mass layoff, termination, or transfer of operations, affecting 500 or more full-time employees, or 50 or more full-time employees if such represents one-third or more of the employees at the business establishment. Presently, the law requires employers to provide at least 60 days’ notice, and requires that employers pay certain severance in the event that they do not fully comply with the notice requirement.
We are living in uncertain and unprecedented times, and businesses are not exempt from the impact of the COVID-19 virus. Government shutdowns and workforce restrictions have left business owners guessing as to whether their companies are “essential” or “non-essential,” and can remain open under lockdowns imposed by state governments. Recent Executive Orders by state governors Murphy and Cuomo identify the “essential” industries and business that can remain open during the lockdowns provided the businesses follow workplace distancing practices.
Porzio, Bromberg & Newman’s Employment Team created a breakdown of benefits available in COVID-19 work-related situations according to the New Jersey Department of Labor and Porzio’s analysis of the federal legislation passed on March 18, 2020.
The onslaught of news and information regarding COVID-19, which evolves daily and often seems contradictory, has led to anxiety and confusion for many companies. In particular, for those individuals in charge of Human Resources, the questions with regard to wages and leave issues are countless. Although the response to inquiries will continue to evolve as the situation develops, the following summary will provide guidance to companies looking to navigate this emerging public health situation.
As you evaluate your agreements and consider the above steps for each relevant contract, we can assist in providing a more detailed review of your contracts and insurance policies to determine the best course of action to mitigate risk and possibly recover damages. Early legal evaluation may also result in a less costly outcome down the road.