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New York State Implements Strict In-Person Workforce Reduction Measures in Response to COVID-19, Effective Friday, March 20th

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. The 75% reduction figure, which Gov. Cuomo announced on Thursday morning, is an increase from Wednesday’s 50% reduction mandate. The executive order is one of New York State’s many recent efforts aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.  In a press conference yesterday, Governor Cuomo acknowledged the significant stress the new order will have on New York businesses, but emphasized that the State’s primary focus is resolving the public health crisis. 

Importantly, the executive order expressly exempts the following “essential service” industries:

  • Essential health care operations including research and laboratory services; 
  • Essential infrastructure including utilities,
  • Telecommunication, 
  • Airports and transportation infrastructure; 
  • Essential manufacturing, including food processing and pharmaceuticals; 
  • Essential retail, including grocery stores and pharmacies; 
  • Essential services including trash collection, mail, and shipping services; 
  • News media; 
  • Banks and related financial institutions; 
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations; 
  • Construction; 
  • Vendors of essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses; and
  • Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public. 

The executive order notes that other businesses may be deemed “essential” (and therefore exempt) by requesting an opinion from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD), which has been directed to review and grant such requests if it determines that it is “in the best interest of the state to have the [applicant’s] workforce continue at full capacity in order to properly respond to this disaster.” The Governor directed ESD to issue further guidance as to which businesses were “essential” by 5:00 PM today, Thursday, March 19, 2020.  
 

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Authors

Michael S. Arnold

Member / Chair, Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice

Michael S. Arnold is an employment attorney at Mintz. He counsels clients on HR issues, defends management and senior executives, and guides companies through employment issues related to transactions. Michael is Chair of Mintz's Employment Litigation & Arbitration Practice.

Corbin Carter

Associate

Corbin Carter is a Mintz attorney who litigates all types of employment disputes before federal and state courts and counsels clients on compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws.