COVID-19 Counsel

As the situation and circumstances of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continue to change, we hope that you and yours are staying safe, healthy and protected. We have been closely monitoring the recommendations of the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and keeping abreast of updates from our local and federal governments, including the legal components and ramifications across all ranges of matters and practice areas stemming from the coronavirus, and can provide counsel accordingly.

Below, we have listed a compilation of resources created by our attorneys to assist businesses and individuals in navigating all the changes during this time. We will continue to update our resources as new measures are implemented, and will always be available to provide further counsel and assistance in particular matters. This most recent updates to the guide were made on October 15, 2020.

What You Need to Know About Returning to Work During COVID-19

As businesses reopen and employees continue to return to workplaces, employers are rightfully concerned with how to best manage workplace safety and their legal and other obligations to employees. RPJ’s COVID-19 team has prepared a guide on return to work protocols that will help employers address the legal and practical requirements for reopening, including:

  • Safety obligations, including New York State-specific requirements for office environments
  • Hygiene, social distancing and PPE protocols
  • Screening employees for illness
  • Permitted medical inquiries, confidentiality and discrimination
  • How to handle requests for accommodation from those who may be at higher risk
  • How to handle requests for leave under new and existing leave laws
  • Workplace flexibilities to consider
  • Second wave contingency planning

Our memorandum is a general discussion of these matters only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon without direct attorney guidance concerning particular situations. We focus on federal and New York law, which are both evolving on a frequent if not daily basis.

Please feel free to contact us if you have questions or need further guidance about your particular situation. The attorneys of our Employment Practice Group would be happy to assist you.

Read the full memo on our site here, and to download a PDF of the guide, click here.

Educators’ Legal Rights in Going Back to Work During the Pandemic

Teachers and other school staff face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic as they return to work this year. In New York state, schools are making decisions on a district-by-district basis, which has led many teachers and school staff to feel uncomfortable and unsafe about returning to the classroom.

In this article, RPJ Attorneys Nicole Page and Elizabeth Stork detail the legal measures teachers and other school employees can take in advance as well as those they can take if they contract the virus on the job, including:

  • Workers’ compensation
  • Injury in the line of duty protections
  • Paid and unpaid leave laws
  • Accommodations for those at heightened risk
  • OSHA complaints
  • Litigation

Read the full article in here and an abridged version here

What the CARES Act Provides and Covers for Small Businesses and Individuals

Congress recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in efforts to help small businesses, non-profits and other employers through the hardships experienced as a result of COVID-19. Among the protections in the Act are:

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans for payroll and other expenses
  • Expanded SBA Disaster Loans
  • Direct payments (tax rebates) and other tax relief for individuals
  • Expanded unemployment insurance

Our attorneys have written a memo detailing all of the provisions of the Act to help businesses and individuals understand the specifics and how it applies to them. Read the memo in full here.

Alternatively, more information can be found in the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Assistance database and specific information on the Paycheck Protection Program can be found in the U.S. Department of the Treasury guidance.

Employers Contemplating Employee Furloughs or Reductions in Force

This memo by our attorneys provides a general overview of these employer options and implicated laws in order to be a helpful tool in decision-making, including:

  • Differences between furloughs and RIFs, and other alternatives
  • Continuation of health insurance coverage
  • Legal notices required to be provided in advance of furloughs or RIFs or on termination
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Use of vacation time
  • Implications of furloughs or RIFs for employees on leave, including discussion of new leave laws passed at the federal level and in New York
  • Employment contracts, handbooks and policies
  • Remaining compliant with wage and hour laws during a furlough
  • Considerations for foreign workers

Contractual Protections to Review for COVID-19: Force Majeure and Insurance Provisions

Companies across multiple industries are struggling as they face un-meetable contractual deadlines and having to shutter some or all of their business activities, conduct furloughs or reductions in force, cancel events and issue refunds. With the potential for lawsuits from customers, clients and investors, and potentially extensive financial losses, it is essential that businesses evaluate their contractual protections, specifically: 

  • Force majeure provisions in commercial contracts and real estate leases
  • Commercial property and business interruption insurance protections, including civil authority, supply chain interruption, ingress/egress, insured options and government intervention, among others
  • Other insurance coverage considerations, including:
    • Directors & Officers insurance
    • Event cancellation insurance
    • General liability insurance

This article from our attorneys goes in depth on each item and consideration. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Please find information about changes pertaining to specific questions and sectors below.

Real Estate and Rent

Litigation and the Courts

  • Suspension of the NY Statute of Limitations
  • Suspension of NY State court activity, with the exception of essential proceedings, as listed below, and any other matter the court deems essential (all subject to ongoing review and amendment)

Essential court proceedings to continue during COVID-19:

Criminal Matters: Arraignments; bail applications, reviews and writs; temporary orders of protection; re-sentencing of retained and incarcerated defendants; and essential sex offender registration act (SORA) matters.

Family Court: Child protection intake cases involving removal applications; newly filed juvenile delinquency intake cases involving remand placement; applications, or modification thereof; emergency family offense petitions/temporary orders of protection; orders to show cause; and stipulations on submission.

Supreme Court: Mental Hygiene Law (MHL) applications and hearings addressing patient retention or release; MHL hearings addressing the involuntary administration of medication and other; medical care; newly filed MHL applications for an assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) plan; emergency applications in guardianship matters; temporary orders of protection, including but not limited to matters involving domestic violence; emergency applications related to the coronavirus; emergency Election Law applications; and extreme risk protection orders (ERPO).

Civil/Housing Matters: Applications addressing landlord lockouts (including reductions in essential services), serious code violations, serious repair orders, and post-eviction relief.

For more information about our COVID-19 Counsel practice, we invite you to contact: