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Summer is coming to an end, and you know what that means: school is back in session. We’ve previously provided general guidance on the challenges facing students, parents and employers this fall as students return to school during the pandemic. This post focuses specifically on what employers doing business in New York should be considering.

The same overarching analysis applies when determining your obligations if an employee is seeking leave to care for children who would be in school if not for COVID-19:

  • Does FFCRA apply?
  • Does a state or local Emergency COVID-19 leave law apply in our jurisdiction?
  • Does a paid sick leave law apply in our jurisdiction?
  • Does a company benefit or policy apply?

New York has a number of leave laws that are implicated by school closures. Fortunately, employers need not worry about New York State’s Paid Family Leave for purposes of school closures. New York has explicitly stated in its FAQ that a COVID-related school closure is not a qualifying reason for purposes of Paid Family Leave benefits under the law. An employee may, however, avail himself or herself of such benefits if the employee or the employee’s minor dependent child is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the State, department of health, local board of health, or government entity.


Continue Reading Back to School Cheat Sheet for Employers: New York

Uber and Lyft may be longing, ironically enough, for the days when COVID-19 was the most immediate existential threat to their businesses. But now a California court has ruled that Uber and Lyft cannot classify their California drivers as employees, entitling them to sick leave, wage minimums and a whole host of other job protections.

How exactly did we get here? Let’s turn back the clock to September 2019 when California first signed Assembly Bill 5 (“AB5”) into law. AB5 codifies the California Supreme Court’s decision known as Dynamex. In that decision, the Court imposed a stricter three-prong test on employers seeking to classify their workers as independent contractors. We previously reported on this decision here back in May 2018.


Continue Reading California Court Says Uber and Lyft Drivers Are Employees, Not Contractors

Law360 (July 15, 2020, 4:21 PM EDT) — The coronavirus has been novel in more ways than one. On one end of the spectrum, employers confront new questions of almost philosophical dimensions.

How much risk is too much risk? What risks should we ask our employees to accept? Where is the line between ordinary risk

The battle between a now pro-employer NLRB and labor unions continues. In the latest skirmish, the NLRB has announced its new election rule (which repeals Obama-era “quickie” election rules) will take immediate effect to the extent that a federal court has not struck provisions of the rule down.

The Obama NLRB issued rules for expedited union elections (disparagingly referred to by management-side opponents as “quickie election” rules) in 2014. Those rules deprived employers resisting unionization of many of the tools they had used for years to delay elections and vote counts, and to challenge election results they didn’t like. That all changed, unsurprisingly, with a Trump NLRB—but the NLRB’s own rulemaking process seemed pretty “quickie” itself, which became exactly the thing that labor unions challenged.


Continue Reading NLRB Elects to Implement Procedural Changes to Obama-Era Election Rules

First Up: DOL Expands Overtime Exemption for Commission-based Retail and Service Workers

We all know that retail has been hit hard by the pandemic. When retail employees paid on a commission basis do go back to work, fewer of them will qualify for overtime, thanks to a Department of Labor (DOL) rule promulgated on Monday, May 18, 2020. While this sounds like a bad deal for employees, there’s a silver lining: the DOL issued another rule just today that will make compensating employees for staggered shifts and fluctuating workweeks easier—practices that are likely going to be critical components of a safe COVID-19 return-to-work plan in retail.

Monday’s final rule withdraws 60-year-old interpretive rules that limited employers’ ability to invoke Section 7(i) of the FLSA, which exempts certain commission-based employees in “retail or service establishments” from overtime eligibility. To qualify for the exemption, a business needs to show: (i) it is a retail or service establishment, as defined by the regulations; (ii) the employee’s regular rate of pay exceeds one and one-half times the applicable minimum wage for every hour worked in a workweek in which overtime hours are worked; and (iii) more than half the employee’s total earnings in a representative period must consist of commissions.


Continue Reading DOL Adopts Two Significant Changes to “Modernize” Overtime

On April 1, 2020, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) posted a temporary rule issuing regulations for implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”), which became effective the same day. We reported on the DOL’s other recent efforts to flesh out the new law through its FAQ section, which included some much needed guidance

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) is effective today, April 1. In honor of this undoubtedly daunting occasion for employers with less than 500 employees, we analyze the most significant provisions from the Department of Labor’s updated FAQs, which fill in gaping holes in the legislation that left employers (and counsel) puzzled.  For employers with fewer than 50 employees, we also examine recent DOL guidance on the “small business exemption” and identify the ways in which employers can qualify for this exemption.


Continue Reading Updated DOL Guidance – What Employers Need To Know On The First Day Of The FFCRA

Ah, summer: less-demanding schedules, lighter workloads, and a more relaxed work wardrobe. In keeping with the professional reputation of lawyers as killjoys, however, we recommend that HR professionals act more like Aesop’s ants—using the summer to prepare for fall—than the grasshopper, who was so busy partying that he failed to prepare at all. So listen, Grasshopper: savvy HR leaders know to use their summer downtime to set themselves up for success when we all go “back to school.”

Here are seven suggestions of what New York HR professionals can get ahead of over the summer:

1. Coordinate Sexual Harassment Prevention Training – Under New York State law, all employers must provide annual sexual harassment prevention training that satisfies the State’s training requirements by October 9, 2019 (NYC has its own requirements, as we describe here). An employer can satisfy these requirements by either adopting the State’s model training documents or by providing live or interactive online/video training which meets or exceeds the State’s minimum standards. With a mid-fall deadline quickly approaching, summer is the perfect time to think about, and possibly complete, your workforce’s first annual training.


Continue Reading Seven Ways Savvy HR Leaders in New York Are Spending Their Summers