Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Introduce New Restrictions in Response to Rising COVID-19 Infections

Pennsylvania

On November 17, 2020, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine issued two new orders in response to rising levels of COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. These orders (1) place certain restrictions on individuals traveling into Pennsylvania, and (2) provide increased and more detailed requirements related to the use of face coverings in the Commonwealth.

The travel order requires that all travelers entering Pennsylvania from other countries and states, whether a returning resident or a visitor, must have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth. If the traveler cannot obtain a negative COVID-19 test, he or she must quarantine for 14 days upon his or her arrival in Pennsylvania or until he or she obtains a negative COVID-19 test result, whichever is earlier. The travel order takes effect on November 20, 2020. Importantly, this order does not apply to individuals who are travelling to or from Pennsylvania for work or medical reasons.

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Philadelphia Expands Paid Sick Leave During COVID-19

On September 17, 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) bill. The PHEL amends Chapter 9-4100 of the Philadelphia Code to create additional sick leave protections for Philadelphia employees during a public health emergency — specifically COVID-19.

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Pennsylvania Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Provisions in Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 Orders

In a decision issued on September 14, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV ruled that certain restrictions ordered by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to slow the spread of COVID-19 were unconstitutional. Judge Stickman’s decision comes after several other Pennsylvania courts upheld the restrictions as being within Wolf’s authority and courts in other states had upheld similar types of orders.

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The Lost Wage Assistance Program Provides Relief After the CARES Act $600 Weekly Benefit Expired

On August 8, 2020, President Trump authorized the creation of the Lost Wage Assistance (LWA) program to provide lost wage assistance to unemployed individuals as a result of COVID-19. The LWA is intended to provide additional unemployment assistance after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s $600 per week supplement expired on July 31, 2020. Under the LWA program, eligible claimants may receive $300 or $400 in supplemental benefits.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide grants to participating states, territories and the District of Columbia for lost wage assistance. States may provide eligible claimants $400 per week, with a $300 federal contribution, in addition to an individual’s regular weekly unemployment benefit (UI) amount. The benefit is funded using 75% from the Disaster Relief Fund administered by FEMA and the remaining 25% through state unemployment insurance funding.

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New Philadelphia Ordinance Protects Employees Who Blow the Whistle on Unsafe Workplaces During COVID-19

On Friday, June 26, 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Essential Workers Protection Act, providing protections to workers who speak out about unsafe workplace conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ordinance, which is touted as the first of its kind in the United States, was supported by more than two dozen labor, advocacy and nonprofit organizations in Philadelphia.

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With Pennsylvania Non-Competes, As in Life, Timing is Everything

In Pennsylvania, it has long been known that waiting until after the start of employment to have an employee sign a non-competition agreement comes with the real risk that the agreement will be unenforceable for lack of consideration.  Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided definitive guidance on the issue in Rullex Co., LLC v. Tel-Stream, Inc., et al., holding that a non-competition agreement entered into after an employee commences employment fails for lack of consideration unless the essential provisions of those restrictions were agreed to before the employee started work.

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