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COVID-19 Blog

Posted in Employment

Workers at McDonald’s and Amazon are invoking the doctrine of public nuisance to sue their employers for what they allege are unsafe working conditions. The employees claim that their employers did not take adequate precautions to protect them, and ultimately the public with which they interact, from the risk of COVID-19 infection. This legal theory is not often used in the context of the employee/employer relationship because other mechanisms already exist to protect workers, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). Furthermore, worker’s ...

Posted in Employment

As New York state businesses gradually reopen, the state has announced the New York Forward Loan Fund. This s a $100 million loan initiative aimed at small businesses, nonprofits and small landlords that have suffered financially due to COVID-19 closures. According to Governor Cuomo, small businesses comprise 90% of the state’s businesses, and “are facing the toughest challenges.”

To be eligible for a loan, a small business must have 20 or fewer full-time employees, have annual gross revenues of less than $3 million, have been in business for at least one year, and be located in ...

Posted in Employment

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 ...

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