Labor & Employment Alert: COVID-19 UPDATES FOR EMPLOYERS

Labor & Employment Alert: COVID-19 UPDATES FOR EMPLOYERS

The Coronavirus outbreak has already put many companies and their employees under unbearable strain, and the shifting landscape of what is required is confusing for everyone. This Legal Alert provides updates that are current, as of this writing.

The government is generally urging anyone who does not absolutely have to leave their home to stay indoors and avoid coming closer than six feet from anyone other than members of their household. Beginning Sunday evening, March 22, Governor Cuomo has ordered a 100% workforce reduction of all non-essential businesses (i.e., essentially anyone other than frontline health care workers and grocery stores) in New York. This means as of next week, nearly every business in the state is ordered closed. Reducing operational hours is a financial hardship for any business, but particularly small businesses that already operate on thin margins and rely on daily income. Nevertheless, employers should have employees use remote work options where available. Virtual/video provision of services can also provide an outlet for businesses to continue operations and maintain cashflow.

Businesses that need to lay off workers should consider the implications of the Older Worker Benefit Protection Act, which provides certain protections to workers age 40 or over. In addition, the New York State Department of Labor has issued guidance for businesses that are forced to close regarding the New York State Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act, which requires covered businesses to provide 90 days’ notice prior to closures and layoffs to workers, employee representatives, the Department of Labor, and local workforce development boards.

"Many businesses are facing rapid and unexpected closures due to the Coronavirus. If your business is forced to close, please provide notice a soon as possible and identify the circumstances that required the closure. The WARN Act requirement to provide 90 days’ advanced notice has not been suspended because the WARN Act already recognizes that businesses cannot predict sudden and unexpected circumstances beyond an employer’s control, such as government-mandated closures, the loss of your workforce due to school closings, or other specific circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic. (emphasis added).

If an unexpected event caused your business to close, please provide as much information as possible to the Department of Labor when you file your notice about the circumstances of your closure so we can determine if an exception to the WARN Act applies to your situation."

Below are some further resources from the federal, state, and local New York City governments for businesses and their employees.

Federal Resources

Small Business Administration

State Resources

New York State is waiving the 7 day waiting period for unemployment for people who are out of work

Workers have up to 10 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member

City Resources

New York City businesses with fewer than 100 employees who have seen sales decrease 25% or more will be eligible for zero interest loans of up to $75,000 to help mitigate losses in profit

New York City is also offering small businesses with fewer than 5 employees a grant to cover 40% of payroll costs for 2 months to help retain employees