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Following the enactment of COVID-19 quarantine leave benefits in March, New York State has now enacted permanent paid sick leave measures, which will require New York employers to provide various amounts of sick leave to employees starting on January 1, 2021.  This post highlight the new requirements of the law.
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Beyond COVID-19’s devastating impact on public health is its second order effects on the U.S. and world economy. Businesses of all sizes need to trim costs. An obvious place to start is with contributions to 401(k) and other tax-qualified retirement plans. This post reviews the options for cost cutting available to employers under their defined contribution 401(k) and profit sharing plans.
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A timely and robust response to the COVID-19 virus demands the attention and resources of, and action by, federal and state regulators, employers, and individuals alike. The stakes could not be higher. State and local “shelter-in-place” orders have effectively, if not actually, resulted in widespread job losses for at least some indeterminate period of time.
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Summary of CARES Act for Employers

March 27, 2020 | Blog | By David Lagasse, Danielle Bereznay

Congress has now passed the CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF AND ECONOMIC SECURITY ACT OR CARES ACT – Federal government’s Phase III response to the health and economic impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump has pledged to sign the Act into law immediately.
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New York State to Provide Paid Sick Leave, Other COVID-19 Protections for Workers

March 27, 2020 | Blog | By Michael Arnold, Corbin Carter

As New York State announced that it had confirmed over 2,300 cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law new requirements for New York State employees affected by the virus.  The new law was swiftly enacted in light of the urgent public health and economic crises facing the state, and goes into effect immediately.  It mandates that New York employers offer paid sick leave and job protections for workers quarantined as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
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This morning, Massachusetts Governor Baker issued Covid Order No. 13 which mandates that, starting Tuesday, March 24th at 12 P.M., all non-essential businesses and other organizations “shall close their physical workplaces and facilities (“brick-and-mortar premises”) to workers, customers, and the public,” due to evolving spread of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. This directive also orders that, in furtherance of Massachusetts’s COVID-19 response efforts, all non-essential businesses and organizations “are encouraged to continue operations where they are able to operate through remote means that do not require worker, customers, or the public to enter or appear at the brick-and-mortar premises closed by this Order.”
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As the United States continues to develop its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of members of the National Guard will be activated to help deal with the threat.  Last week, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker activated 2,000 of the state’s National Guardspeople to aid the COVID-19 fight. As states assess how to use the National Guard to assist with the current state of emergency, service members will be called on to serve in increasing numbers.
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The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced that for the three month period from March 17, 2020 to June 17, 2020, it will provide a temporary exemption to certain federal contracting requirements.  The exemption is related to work under federal construction and service/supply contracts to provide COVID-19 relief. 
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Late Thursday evening California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 (the “Order”), which directs all California residents to stay home in light of the developing COVID-19 public health crisis. The Order states that except as necessary to continue the operations of businesses in the 16 “Critical Infrastructure” industries, all residents should leave their residence only as necessary for food or medical needs.
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401(k) plans must, by law, limit the circumstances under which plan money can be withdrawn by active employees. However, 401(k) plans can (and most do) allow in-service withdrawals in the event of an employee’s financial hardship. The COVID-19 pandemic is guaranteed to have financial repercussions for many 401(k) participants, and hardship distributions may provide a financial bridge to better times. The post summarizes the hardship distribution rules to help 401(k) plan sponsors prepare for an uptick in requests. It should be noted that the hardship distribution rules changed in 2018 and 2019, so employers are advised to confirm that they are familiar with the most current rules.
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As part of the continuing effort to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Newsom has issued an Executive Order temporarily modifying the California WARN Act requirements for employers engaging in mass layoffs.
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an expansive executive order, which mandates that, beginning Friday, March 20, 2020, at 8:00 PM, all “non-essential” businesses and non-profits entities in New York State must reduce their in-office workforce by at least 75%, and where possible, utilize telecommuting arrangements.
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COVID-19 Update: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act Becomes Law

March 19, 2020 | Blog | By Michael Arnold, David Barmak, Danielle Bereznay

President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law late Wednesday night.  We summarize the enacted version below (which replaces our analysis of an earlier version the House passed, which it since amended).  The law goes into effect into effect April 2, 2020 and will remain in place until the end of the year. 
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In response to COVID-19, Massachusetts has directed health insurance carriers to, among other things, relax cost-sharing and enhance telemedicine services. These directives are part of the Commonwealth’s package of efforts to encourage early detection and treatment of COVID-19, and to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Massachusetts carriers have answered the call by enhancing benefits and services, in some cases beyond what the new directives require. Employers can play a key role by informing employees of these new benefits and encouraging employees to use the benefits.
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In our recent blog posts, we discussed the impact coronavirus / COVID-19 is having on the workforce, and what employers should or should not be doing in response to the outbreak.  On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization’s (“WHO”) declared the coronavirus outbreak is a “pandemic.”
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On March 12, 2020, the IRS issued notice 2020-15, providing that a health plan will not fail to be a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) merely because it provides testing for and treatment of COVID-19 without a deductible or subject to a reduced deductible. Therefore, an individual who participates in such a plan may continue to participate in a Health Savings Account (HSA).
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Coronavirus Also Impacts Employee Mental Health

March 12, 2020 | Blog | By Jennifer Rubin

The CDC and other governmental agencies have been critical in guiding employers with recommended protocols for the physical health and safety of employees and other individuals in our workplaces. While an employee’s physical well-being is important, employers should not overlook the mental health issues impacting employees in connection with their response to the coronavirus pandemic in the workplace.
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Teleworking and the COVID-19 Outbreak

March 12, 2020 | Blog | By Corbin Carter

One of the most pressing questions presented by the COVID-19 coronavirus is how companies can balance employees’ health and wellbeing (including both virus-related symptoms and associated anxieties) with the business’s operating needs. Although not a cure-all, the implementation of teleworking (i.e. remote working) is one way that certain equipped companies can keep their employees (and those they interact with) safe, without significantly impacting business operations. In this post, we highlight the benefits of teleworking, where possible, and suggest best practices for employers looking to institute temporary teleworking arrangements.
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