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On April 28, 2020 President Trump signed an executive order declaring meat processing plants as “essential infrastructure,” requiring meat processors to remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meat processor, Smithfield Foods Inc., has recently been under intense scrutiny for its continued operations during the health crisis after more than 1,000 COVID-19 inflections have been linked to a single processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, notwithstanding the company’s claim in mid-March that it had instituted safety protocols and was following strict guidance ...

Posted in Employment

By Executive Order of Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York businesses are now required by law to provide face coverings for all employees who are currently in contact with customers or members of the public. Construing this requirement broadly, and in the absence of further guidance from the State, companies would be hard-pressed to find a position that would not meet these conditions. This is particularly so given it is unclear whether the Executive Order includes travel to and from the workplace.

While the new law does not go so far as to require medical grade surgical masks or N95 masks, it ...

Posted in Employment

On May 13, 2020, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down that state’s stay-at-home order—not because the medical advice to stay home had changed in any way, but because the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, when promulgating the stay-at-home rule, did not properly adhere to the emergency rule procedures provided by statute. Although not every state has statutes like Wisconsin’s that prescribe specific procedures for enacting emergency orders, lawsuits challenging stay-at-home orders have been filed around the country, including in Florida, Michigan, New ...

Posted in Employment

As the world fights to reduce exposure to the coronavirus, employers should be thinking about how to limit their legal exposure to a host of issues brought to fore by the ongoing health pandemic and economic crisis.  Although it may already be several weeks since many non-essential employers have pivoted towards remote work arrangements where feasible, companies are beginning to be named as defendants by employees for failing to ensure their safety.  Essential workers have filed class actions against their employers for a failure to provide necessary personal ...

Posted in Employment

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing employers of all sizes to reduce their largest expense - payroll. A suddenly popular option is an employee “furlough,” which is an unpaid leave of absence, as opposed to layoffs. Employers choosing to furlough employees typically do so with the hope that economic conditions will improve so that employees can return to work, to maintain goodwill and, if possible, continue certain employer-sponsored benefits such as health insurance. However, employers must take care to understand how furloughs work, what their legal obligations are and decide whether it is advantageous or not.

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