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COVID-19 Employment Practices and Employee Benefits
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For assistance with employment-related matters, please contact your regular Olshan attorney or the authors of this section.

Stephen L. Ferszt
Michael J. Passarella

COVID-19 Employment Practices and Employee Benefits

Employers throughout the country are dealing with the nearly unprecedented disruption that COVID-19 is causing to their businesses and their employees. Over the past several weeks, Olshan’s employment practices and employee benefits groups have been working with companies to provide solutions to difficult issues that have arisen. Examples of the issues raised so far include:

  • Advising on furloughs, reductions in hours or pay, and the differences between doing do for exempt and non-exempt (i.e., hourly) employees;
  • Providing guidance on necessary communications and timing of mass layoffs and closings, including potential exceptions to WARN and mini-WARN notices;
  • Creating an Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan;
  • Reviewing numerous issues related to employee absences and leave, such as:
    • Excusing absences,
    • Use of FMLA or state leave,
    • Use of discretionary employer-provided unpaid leave,
    • Mandating use of employer sick and vacation time,
    • Permitting remote work to some or all employees,
    • Requiring medical certification and doctor’s notes,
    • Questions regarding unemployment insurance and benefit administration, and
    • Advising on health insurance coverage, including high deductible health insurance. 
  • Responding to demands for bargaining by a union over the impact of absences and layoffs on the workforce;
  • Managing temporary/contingent employees to assist with the business;
  • Assisting employer communications to employees about measures for health and safety; and
  • Providing updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Health Alert Network.

COVID 19 – Update on Federal and State Leave Laws. On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) was signed into law providing, among other things, paid leave and enhanced FMLA leave to employees of companies with less than 500 employees. Since then, states have enacted or revised their sick and/or family leave policies to take into account COVID-19. This client alert, authored by Michael Passarella and Marc Aspis entitled "COVID 19 – Update on Federal and State Leave Laws", provides an update on the FFCRA and describes important changes and updates to state leave programs in the tri-state area.  

Update – COVID-19 Hardship Distributions from Qualified Retirement Plans. As temporary furloughs and layoffs become more prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees and employers are looking to the economic relief provisions of the CARES Act for help. This client alert, authored by Stephen Ferszt entitled "Update – COVID-19 Hardship Distributions from Qualified Retirement Plans", provides an expanded look at the COVID‑19 hardship distribution from qualified retirement plans for certain expenses and losses resulting from COVID‑19.

CARES Act Provides Significant Relief for Employee Benefit Plan Participants and Sponsors. Our client alert, authored by Stephen Ferszt and Marc Aspis entitled "CARES Act Provides Significant Relief for Employee Benefit Plan Participants and Sponsors", summarizes the provisions of Sections 2202, 2203, 3607 and 3608 of the CARES Act, which address employee benefit plans and the COVID‑19 pandemic.

New York State and Federal Governments Enact and Modify Paid and Unpaid Leave Laws as Part of COVID-19 Response. Our client alert, authored by Michael Passarella entitled "New York State and Federal Governments Enact and Modify Paid and Unpaid Leave Laws as Part of COVID-19 Response", discusses the federal and state laws providing enhanced leave and protection to workers affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19.

401(k) Strategies During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our client alert, authored by Stephen Ferszt and Marc Aspis entitled "401(k) Strategies During the COVID-19 Pandemic", addresses the key aspects of employees’ and employers’ alternatives when looking to 401(k) plans for immediate liquidity.

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