Reminder to New Jersey employers: NJ WARN changes on the horizon

Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, in January 2020, Governor Murphy signed into law sweeping changes to New Jersey’s mini-WARN act. The first-of-its-kind law in the nation required mandatory severance payments for employees who lost their jobs in a mass layoff. We discussed details of the changes here. The law was scheduled to take effect in July 2020. However, as discussed here, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated strain and uncertainty for businesses, Governor Murphy delayed the effective date until 90 days after the end of the State of Emergency declared as a result of the pandemic.

Over a year later, as restrictions begin to lift throughout the nation, Governor Murphy has announced that he may allow the State of Emergency (which has been in effect since March 2020) to sunset on the next expiration date, June 13, 2021. Governor Murphy’s announcement noted that this is conditional on the legislature taking certain steps to deal with the ongoing issues stemming from the pandemic, however, as talks about the expiration of the State of Emergency loom, it is a good time for employers to refresh themselves on the details of the law. While there is still the possibility of a further extension of the State of Emergency or other legislative action impacting the effective date of the law, if the State of Emergency does end of June 13, 2021, employers can expect the new WARN act requirements to take effect on September 11, 2021. Employers should familiarize themselves with the New Jersey requirements and be prepared to pay mandatory severance in mass layoffs occurring after the effective date of the law.

Reed Smith’s Labor & Employment team will continue to monitor these developments and provide updates. Should you have any questions about the requirements under the new law or other issues impacting your work force, Reed Smith’s experienced attorneys are available to assist.

It pays to be vaccinated in Los Angeles County with new paid leave ordinance

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recently enacted an urgency ordinance that requires employers to provide supplemental paid leave of up to four hours per injection for employees working in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. The Employee Paid Leave for Expanded Vaccine Access Ordinance (the Ordinance) is effective retroactively to January 1, 2021 and will remain in effect until August 31, 2021.

Covered employers and eligible employees

The Ordinance applies to all employers who have employees working in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. The Ordinance establishes a presumption that a worker is an employee and the employer bears the burden to demonstrate that a worker is a bona fide independent contractor, and thus not entitled to any benefits under the Ordinance.

Covered employers must provide “COVID-19 Vaccine Leave” to eligible employees to:

  1. Travel to and from a COVID-19 vaccine appointment;
  2. Receive the COVID-19 vaccine injection; and
  3. Recover from any symptoms related to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine that prevent the employees from being able to work or telework.

Eligible employees are those who: 1) work in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County; and 2) have exhausted all available leave time under California’s 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Law, codified as Labor Code section 248.2. In other words, because Labor Code section 248.2 already requires employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave to employees for the same reasons as the Ordinance, employees must first use all available paid leave provided by Labor Code section 248.2 before they are eligible for paid leave under the Ordinance. Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit reverses preliminary injunction: California’s independent contractor law applies to motor carriers

In a split 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order preliminarily enjoining enforcement of California’s Assembly Bill (AB) 5 in California Trucking Association et al. v. Bonta (CTA). If this ruling is not appealed, AB 5, which is chaptered in the California Labor Code under 2750.3, will no longer be enjoined from applying to companies in the trucking industry.

In 2019, the California legislature enacted AB 5 to codify the California Supreme Court’s decision in Dynamex West Operations, Inc. v. Superior Court (2018). In Dynamex, the Court judicially adopted the “ABC test” for employers to pass before classifying a worker as an independent contractor. Prior to the Dynamex ruling, courts applied the multi-factor Borello balancing test to determine the status of a worker.

Over 30 states now apply the ABC test. Subject to some statutory exemptions, in California, the law provides that a worker is presumed to be an employee unless: (a) the worker is free from control and direction of the hiring entity under both in practice and under contract; and (b) the worker performs work outside of the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (c) the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature of the work performed.

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Cal-OSHA released proposed revisions to the COVID-19 prevention order

UPDATE on May 20, 2021: Since this article was published, Cal/OSHA has delayed the vote on the new proposed Emergency Temporary Standards. Please read details on the delayed vote on the Reed Smith EHS Law Insights Blog.


As vaccination rates increase in California, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) has released a draft of a new proposed COVID-19 emergency regulation. The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will vote on whether to send the proposed regulation to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) on May 20th. After it is received, the OAL is only required to allow five calendar days for submission of comments and 10 calendar days for review before filing with the Secretary of State. Given this timeline, it is likely that the new regulations will become effective in early June.

The new COVID-19 emergency regulations loosen a number of the prior requirements for fully vaccinated workers. The new COVID-19 emergency regulations, however, also add a number of new compliance requirements for employers. In that regard, the new proposed regulation contains many important changes to how face coverings and N-95 masks must be used, testing and exposure requirements, and the prior exclusion and wage replacement rules. The key changes in these areas are briefly summarized below: Continue Reading

BREAKING: New York adopts CDC’s loosened mask and social distancing guidance

As most of our readers likely know by now, on May 13, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that, “[i]f you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.” The CDC went on the state that “[f]ully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing.”

Quite understandably, this led many U.S. businesses to wonder whether their workforces are still required to wear a mask or physically distance in the workplace – particularly because the CDC’s guidance also provides that businesses still need to be abide by applicable state and local laws, rules, and regulations concerning mask wearing and physical distancing.

New York State employers, however, need wonder no more. Just a few hours ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that, beginning May 19, New York will adopt the CDC’s “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People” for most business and public settings. To implement the CDC’s guidance, New York State will be revising the following business reopening guidelines to take effect on May 19:

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New York’s landmark HERO Act becomes law – With some caveats

Well, that was fast! As we reported on Tuesday, the New York State legislature passed a sweeping bill in late April known as the HERO Act. The HERO Act represents a massive change to the Empire State’s workplace health and safety protocols.

At the time of our initial post, the HERO Act was awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature. That signature came late Wednesday. Notably, however, the Governor has asked the legislature to make certain technical changes to the law, including giving the New York State Department of Labor and employers more specific instructions in developing and implementing the workplace standards required by the HERO Act. In addition, Governor Cuomo has asked that lawmakers add a requirement for employers to cure violations in order to better protect the safety of workers and limit claims by employees for violations, in limited circumstances where employers are acting in bad faith and failing to cure deficiencies.

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Pennsylvania businesses may need to finalize reopening plans

After more than a year of navigating the myriad orders impacting Pennsylvania businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wolf administration has announced that it will lift all mitigation orders, except masking, on May 31, 2021. Although the announcement was sparse on detail, its general nature suggests that the following mitigation mandates – which we have covered in detailed previously – will be lifted this Memorial Day.

  • Remote work

Although remote work was mandated unless impossible for a period of time, the Governor’s amended order of April 1, 2021 modified this requirement to only “strongly encourage” businesses to conduct their operations, in whole or in part, via telework. Effective May 31, 2021, businesses may be permitted to resume their normal in-person operations without restriction.

  • Business and building safety requirements for businesses with in-person operations.

Adhering to enhanced cleaning, sanitation, and operational requirements throughout the pandemic has presented a number of practical issues for businesses. Most recently, Governor Wolf’s November 27, 2020 Order set forth a number of enhanced cleaning and mitigation protocols for businesses maintaining in-person operations, including altering business hours to provide sufficient time to clean; wiping down carts and handbaskets before they become available to customers for use; staggering check-out counters and registers to allow for hourly cleaning; implementing temperature screenings before employees enter the business prior to the start of each shift; staggering employee break times; conducting meetings and trainings virtually; and scheduling handwashing breaks as necessary. Continue Reading

Department of Labor withdraws pro-business independent contractor final rule

As we previously reported here and here, in January 2021 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a business-friendly final rule concerning the classification of workers as independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The final rule, which was scheduled to take effect in March 2021 (but never did), reaffirmed the use of the so-called “economic reality test” to distinguish between independent contractors and employees under the federal wage/hour law.  In essence, the rule was intended to provide a more uniform approach to worker classification.

Shortly after taking office, however, President Biden postponed the effective date of the final rule and suggested it should be repealed.  The Biden administration has now followed through on that plan, with the DOL blocking the rule entirely earlier today.  In a press release announcing the rule’s withdrawal, the DOL stated: “Upon further review and consideration of the rule and having considered the public comments, the [DOL] does not believe that the Independent Contractor Rule is fully aligned with the FLSA’s text or purpose, or with decades of case law describing and applying the multifactor economic realities test.”

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COVID-19, health and safety and dismissal

COVID-19 has thrown up numerous and multi-varied concerns for employers and employees alike. One notable area of consideration and concern has been the delicate and difficult issue of dismissals related to health and safety reasons. A recent case has shed more light on how Tribunals may deal with the pandemic-related workplace issue of employees’ refusal to work on health and safety grounds, due to fear of COVID-19.

Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting Limited ET/1803829/2020

Case Facts

This case considered the availability and legitimacy of fears over exposure to/contracting COVID-19 at work acting as grounds for statutory protection against unfair dismissal.

The Claimant refused to come into work after another colleague began to show symptoms of COVID‑19, and self-isolated. He informed the Respondent that he would not return to work until lockdown eased, as he was concerned for his very young child, who has sickle cell disease. After a month of refusing to attend work, the Respondent was dismissed.

The Claimant did not have sufficient service to claim ordinary unfair dismissal, so instead claimed that he had been automatically unfairly dismissed for exercising his rights to leave the workplace and take steps to protect himself where he reasonably believed there was a serious and imminent danger, under sections 100(1)(d) and (e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996. Continue Reading

New York legislators pass sweeping new workplace health and safety bill

In late April, New York State legislators passed a bill that can best be described as a “game changer.” Known as the Health and Essential Rights – or HERO – Act, the bill proposes a novel, sweeping overhaul of the Empire State’s workplace health and safety laws. Among other things, the HERO Act directs New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) to create minimum workplace safety standards, requires all New York business to adopt airborne infectious disease exposure plans, and authorizes the creation of joint labor-management workplace safety committees within every company.

The bill now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk, where it is expected to be signed in the near term. Below we will outline the key provisions of the HERO Act. Continue Reading

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