States have been busy when it comes to marijuana laws. Before the mid-2010s, employers tended not to worry about state marijuana laws because of marijuana’s illegal status under federal law. However, those days are over, and state marijuana legalization laws continue to affect how employers can run their workplaces.
On March 31, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), which legalizes the adult recreational use of marijuana and revises Section 201-d of the New York Labor Law. The MRTA’s antidiscrimination employment provisions took effect immediately.
On March 12, 2021, New York State enacted a law that requires all employers to provide their New York employees with up to four hours of paid time off per injection to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. At the time of enactment, the law did not provide guidance on certain key issues. Recently, the New York State Department of Labor published answers to some questions that many employers have been asking.
On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law legislation requiring all employers, both public and private sector, to provide employees with up to four hours of paid time off per injection to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The law took effect immediately.
In November 2020, voters in five states (Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota) voted in favor of legalizing medical and/or recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been several developments within the marijuana legalization world that employers may want to keep an eye on as they move forward in 2021.
Over 1,500 COVID-19–related employment lawsuits were filed in the United States in 2020. Ogletree Deakins’ Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker highlights the industries impacted, locations, and types of claims in these matters.
The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) issued guidance on January 20, 2021, clarifying certain aspects of New York’s COVID-19–related quarantine leave law and expanding certain benefits under the law. Parts of the guidance came as a surprise to some employers, as they appear to impose additional obligations on employers to pay employees if they require the employees to remain out of work due to potential COVID-19 exposure.
On December 10, 2020, the New York City Council amended New York City’s Fair Chance Act (FCA), also known as the “ban the box” law. The recently enacted amendments will take effect on July 29, 2021.
On January 5, 2021, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation that effectively ends at-will employment for fast food employees in New York City. The new law takes effect on July 4, 2021, and would make New York City the nation’s first jurisdiction to create job protections for a particular industry. However, at least some portions of the new law may be ripe to challenge on federal preemption and other grounds.
Several states’ minimum wage rates will increase in 2021. The following chart lists the state (and certain major locality) minimum wage increases for 2021—and future years, if available—along with the related changes in the maximum tip credit and minimum cash wage for tipped employees.
Earlier this year, New York State enacted a statewide paid sick leave (PSL) law, which took effect on September 30, 2020. Entitlement to use leave under the law begins on January 1, 2021, and, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) has published PSL guidance and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). In order to provide greater clarity concerning the requirements of the law, on December 9, 2020, the NYSDOL published proposed regulations.
On November 1, 2020, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Palmer et al. v. Amazon.com Inc. et al., No. 20-cv-2468, 2020 WL 6388599, dismissed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging failures to comply with New York law and “New York Forward” minimum requirements for businesses.
Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.
On April 3, 2020, New York State enacted a statewide paid sick leave (PSL) law impacting all private employers in New York. The law requires employers to provide up to 40 or 56 hours of annual sick leave (depending on their size and net income).
The year 2020 has certainly come with its share of new challenges. Now, with the presidential election less than a month away, heightened tensions around the country, new remote work environments, videoconferences offering a window into employees’ personal lives, face masks with political slogans, and so much more, New York employers might want to start thinking through what employee political conduct they can and can’t regulate this election season.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law New York City Council Int. No. 2032-A on September 28, 2020, after the city council passed the bill a few days earlier. The legislation, which took effect on September 30, 2020, amends the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA) and generally aligns the ESSTA with the New York State Sick Leave Law (New York Labor Law § 196-b) (NYSSLL), the accrual provisions of which also took effect on September 30, 2020.
We previously reported on COVID-19–related employment lawsuits that we tracked from late March 2020 through early May 2020. Since then, the number of lawsuits has steadily risen as employers have resumed operations after shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders were lifted and students returned to school in virtual or hybrid environments. To track this litigation and to identify trends, we developed an Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker that details where COVID-19–related litigation is taking place by state, the industries affected, and the types of claims asserted against employers and educational institutions.
On September 8, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) final joint-employer rule, which limited when multiple businesses involved in an employment relationship could be liable for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
On August 12, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit limited the scope of a nationwide injunction that had blocked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from implementing and enforcing the Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds final rule (commonly called the “public charge rule”) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision, which came only days after a series of recent federal court decisions on the controversial rule, restricts the scope of the nationwide injunction to only those states under the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit.
On July 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an injunction immediately blocking the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from enforcing the Trump administration’s new public charge rule during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On August 3, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York upended several employer-friendly limitations in the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Specifically, the court struck down the DOL’s regulations regarding: (1) the requirement that employers actually have work available for employees in order to be eligible for leave; (2) the broad definition of “health care provider” under the final rule; (3) the requirement that employees obtain employer approval for intermittent leave; and (4) the requirement that employees provide documentation prior to taking FFCRA leave.
On June 24, 2020, in response to the ongoing risk posed by a resurgence of COVID-19 infections in some states, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order (EO) 205 directing the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) to issue a travel advisory for all persons entering New York from states with significant rates of transmission of COVID-19. The travel advisory became effective at 12:01 a.m. on June 25, 2020.
Almost every state has issued closure orders designating certain businesses as “essential” and allowing them to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states have recently issued orders expressly or implicitly regulating the safety and health of workers at those essential businesses. Are some or all of the provisions in these orders preempted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act)? It depends.
On April 14, 2020, the State of New York filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. In the lawsuit, New York challenges the April 1, 2020, final rule that the DOL issued implementing the emergency family leave and paid sick leave requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
On April 13, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Delaware Governor John Carney, and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced the creation of a regional multistate coalition to coordinate and work together to safely reopen the economy and bring employees back to work. Following the announcement, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker also announced that Massachusetts had joined the coalition. The multistate coalition is “comprised of one health expert, one economic development expert and the respective Chief of Staff from each state [and] will work together to develop a fully integrated regional framework to gradually lift the states’ stay at home orders while minimizing the risk of increased spread of the virus.”
On April 3, 2020, the State of New York enacted a long-expected statewide paid sick leave law that will impact all private employers in New York. The law’s leave accrual provisions take effect September 30, 2020; however, employers are not required to provide sick leave to any employee until January 1, 2021.
On March 25, 2020, New York State published highly anticipated guidance concerning the state’s emergency paid quarantine leave law. The guidance provides answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) addressing, among other things, benefits, eligibility, and the application process.
On March 10, 2020, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS), which regulates a variety of financial service entities such as banks, credit unions, check cashers, insurance companies, mortgage brokers, investment advisors, and cryptocurrency businesses, issued guidance in a series of “industry letters” and “circular letters” requesting “assurance” of operational preparedness relating to COVID-19. Such operation preparedness plans include a plan to maintain an adequate workforce, including remote work and other strategies to safeguard the workforce.
California, Connecticut, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York have all issued statewide shelter-in-place orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more states may follow. Employers that do not qualify for an exemption under the applicable state order or that decide to severely curtail or shut down operations may want to consider some of the following issues.
On March 18, 2020, at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s behest, New York State passed an emergency law that extends paid leave and additional employment protections and benefits immediately to employees involuntarily quarantined in connection with COVID-19. An initial version of the bill also included paid sick leave provisions that were not directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic and were scheduled to take effect January 1, 2021. Those provisions have been stricken from the emergency law but are expected to be passed in separate legislation.