Question & Answer Employer Guide: Return to Work in the Time of COVID-19

As government authorities look to implement business reopening measures, employers are now planning to move employees back into the workplace as state and local stay-at-home orders expire and other COVID-19 business restrictions expire or are modified. What are the various considerations employers must keep in mind when reopening their physical work locations?

This Question and Answer Guide describes a number of COVID-19 employment and return-to-work considerations. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is a fluid situation and highly dependent on jurisdiction- and sector-specific considerations, we anticipate that additional guidance will be coming from the federal, state and local governments as plans to allow businesses to open are developed in the coming days and weeks.

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New Jersey Delays Amendments to the New Jersey WARN Act and Provides Relief to Employers Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

New Jersey employers facing difficult decisions given business challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have been hoping for some relief from the amendments to New Jersey’s Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act (NJ WARN Act), set to take effect on July 19, 2020. Simply put, those amendments will lower the bar such that the NJ WARN Act will be triggered by reductions in force that impact 50 or more employees (either full-time or part-time) at or reporting to an establishment (a single location or group of locations within the state) during any 30-day period. In addition, the amendments require employers who lay off employees on or after July 19, 2020, to give employees 90 days’ notice, rather than the 60 days previously required by state law and by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

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New Jersey Law Prohibits COVID-19-Related Employment Discrimination

On March 20, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a new law meant to protect employees who take COVID-19-related leave. New Jersey Assembly Bill 3848 (the Act) provides protections and remedies for such employees and outlines the complaint process for aggrieved individuals. The Act is in direct response to COVID-19 and is meant to protect employees who need to take time off from work because they are or might be infected with COVID-19. The Act was effective immediately.
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COVID-19: New Jersey Updates as of March 22, 2020

On Saturday, March 21, 2020, Governor Murphy issued two additional Executive Orders. The Orders, Executive Order 107 and Executive Order 108 went into effect that same day at 9 p.m. They will remain in effect until revoked or modified.

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COVID-19: New York Updates as of March 22, 2020

Overview of Certain Restrictions:

Already In Place by March 20, 2020 In-person workforce reduction by 50%, except for essential businesses.

All common portions of retail shopping malls with an excess of 100,000 square feet of retail space available for lease must close, unless they have a separate exclusive entrance. Essential businesses exempt.

Closure of indoor and outdoor public amusement, video lottery or casino gaming, gyms, fitness centers or classes, and movie theaters.

By March 21, 2020 at 8 p.m. In person workforce reduction by 75%, except for essential businesses.

All barbershops, hair salons, tattoo or piercing salons, nail salons, hair removal services and related personal care services must close.

By March 22, 2020 at 8 p.m. 100% of the New York workforce must stay home, except for essential businesses.

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COVID-19: New Jersey Updates As of March 20, 2020

Statewide Restrictions:

On March 16, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered all schools, casinos, racetracks, gyms, fitness centers, movie theaters, performing arts center, other concert venues, nightclubs, and other entertainment centers to close to the public effective March 16, 2020 at 8 p.m., except for schools, which were ordered to close effective March 18, 2020. Governor Murphy also limited public gatherings to 50 persons or fewer, excluding normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, office environments, factories, assemblages for the purpose of industrial or manufacturing work, construction sites, mass transit, or the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.

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