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Coronavirus - Current State of Affairs in New York

UPDATED - MARCH 23, 2020

As of 8 pm on March 22, NY State has been put on PAUSE. This 10 point policy implemented by Governor Cuomo includes mandates such as 100% of the workforce for non-essential businesses is required to stay home; businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet; and any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced, among other things. Refer to the Department of Health website for the complete list of requirements under this mandatory policy.

NY continues to have the most confirmed cases in the nation. This workforce reduction is a mandate, not a guideline and there will be both civil fines and mandatory closures for companies that are not in compliance.

Empire State Development has posted guidance intended to assist businesses in determining whether they are an essential business and steps to request such designation. Please click on this link to view the guidance.

If the function of your business is not listed, but you believe that it is essential or it is an entity providing essential services or functions, you may request designation as an essential business, through the ESDC website.

The governor also enacted Matilda’s Law (named for his mother) to protect the most vulnerable population, defined as those age 70 and older or individuals with compromised immune systems. This law requires such individuals to remain indoors; can go outside for solitary exercise; pre-screen all visitors by taking their temperature; wear a mask in the company of others; stay at least 6 feet from others; and not take public transportation unless urgent and absolutely necessary.

Additionally, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced today that the IRS has officially moved Tax Day from April 15 to July 15, giving extra time for individuals and businesses to file their taxes.

More information is available on the governor’s website.

Emergency COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave

On March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed emergency legislation guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined as a result of COVID-19 (coronavirus). The provisions took effect immediately, upon signing.

New York Emergency Paid Sick Leave and PFL/disability benefits may be available to address the immediate need of employees affected by COVID-19 who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation. Forms required to apply for Paid Family Leave/disability benefit compensation during a quarantine, are available at PaidFamilyLeave.ny.gov/COVID19. Employers and employees can also find answers to Frequently Asked Questions on this site.

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ORIGINAL COMMUNICATION

Paid Sick Leave Bill

On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Governor Cuomo spoke to the people of New York to address the current COVID-19 (coronavirus) situation in New York State. Currently NYS has 1,374 confirmed cases, which puts us at #1 in the nation. Of the confirmed cases, there have been 294 hospitalizations (which equates to 19%) which is again the highest in the nation. This data underscores the reason why what may feel like such drastic measures, such as school and other business closings are critical.

The Governor indicated the State government is continuing to plan and adjust as new information becomes available and outlined the steps that have been and continue to be taken:

Testing – Testing capacity has been ramped up. Currently over 10,000 tests have been conducted in NY, with 1,374 positive test results (at the time of the Governor’s address).

Containment – NY has implemented a tri-state strategy along with CT and NJ to maximize the benefits of containment. Steps currently taken include closing of all schools across the tri-state region until at least April 1, 2020. Additionally, as of 8 pm on March 16, all gyms, casinos, and movie theaters were ordered to close. Restaurants and bars were also ordered to close, except for take-out/delivery service. The Governor acknowledged the disruption and financial impact that these measures will cause but reiterated the necessity of such severe actions to ensure containment and “flatten the curve,” which is a community isolation measure that keeps the daily number of disease cases at a manageable level for medical providers.  Because of this, it’s likely that more closings will be necessary to limit interactions between people.

Increase capacity of health care system – The maximum capacity of the health care system is going to be challenged. It’s anticipated that outbreak will peak in 45 days and there are simply not enough hospital beds or ICU beds available. As such, the state government is working to add capacity, add staff, and construct temporary medical facilities.

Relief for employees and employers -Last week the Governor announced that the State will guarantee two (2) full weeks of paid leave for all state workers who are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine as a result of the novel coronavirus. State employees will not have to use accrued paid time off (e.g., vacation, sick, personal) during the time taken off work for quarantine. This will apply to all state employees, regardless of civil service classification, bargaining unit, and regardless of part time or accrual status.

On March 17, 2020 the Governor announced a paid sick leave bill to address the immediate need of additional employees affected by COVID-19 who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation.

Upon passage, the legislation will provide the following:

  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will provide job protection for the duration of the quarantine order and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
  • Employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave, job protection for the duration of the quarantine order, and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
  • Employers with 100 or more employees, as well as all public employers (regardless of number of employees), will provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order.

The program bill also includes the permanent comprehensive paid sick leave policy first advanced in the Governor's FY 2021 Executive Budget proposal that would require the following:

  • Employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of unpaid sick leave each year.
  • Employers with 5-99 employees and employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million will provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave each year.
  • Employers with 100 or more employees will provide at least 7 days of paid sick leave each year.

It’s important to note that at the time of this writing, this legislation was not officially signed but was expected to be signed within the week. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

For more information or to listen to the Governor’s address, click here.

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HR Works, Inc., headquartered at 200 WillowBrook Office Park in Fairport (Rochester), New York, with an office in East Syracuse, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.