This week, we’re talking shots (vaccines), cool acronyms, relief for restaurants and the unemployed, and other employment-related goodness from the recent federal stimulus bill.
Get paid to take shots!
COVID shots . . . New York employees are now entitled to paid leave to get the COVID vaccination. Under the new law, already in effect, all employers are required to provide paid leave for a "sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per injection" to receive the COVID vaccine. So, if you're doing a double-shot, you're entitled to two separate four-hour leaves. Notably, this leave supplements other leave that employees may be entitled to (including sick leave laws under both NYS and NYC). As expected, the law also cracks down on employers who retaliate against employees who take (or request) paid vaccine leave.
At a time when employers are considering how to motivate/encourage/convince (perhaps, force?) employees to get vaccinated, letting them know that they'll get paid to do so might just be a nice little incentive.
Because there's always room for another acronym . . .
You likely heard that late last week President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, or "ARPA" (or the much less catchy: "$1.9 trillion COVID relief bill"). While everyone is focused on the stimulus checks, employment lawyers are excited about some of the “less flashy” provisions. Let’s take a look:
Extension and Expansion of the FFCRA's paid sick and family leave provisions.
Remember the FFCRA? Of course you do – we first wrote about it almost a year ago to the day and have provided updates since. As we previously told you, the FFCRA's paid sick and family leave provisions were extended – on a voluntary basis – through March 31, 2021 pursuant to the relief bill Congress passed in December 2020. Meaning, employers can offer paid FFCRA leave to qualified employees but don’t need to. If they do offer it, they’ll get a nice little tax incentive. ARPA extends the deadline for employers to offer this leave (again on a voluntary basis) through September 2021. Employees of companies that "opt-in" for this benefit will also receive a new bucket of FFCRA leave on April 1st.
Let them (restaurant owners) eat cake!
Restaurant owners get some good news too! In a much needed nod to businesses in the struggling food/beverage/hospitality industries, ARPA has created a new grant pool specifically for restaurants and hospitality groups. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund provides grants – not loans – for certain eligible food and beverage entities. How much? About $28.6 billion. There's some PPP connection here so make sure to speak with someone in the know before moving forward.
Employers need to pay up (again), this time for COBRA premiums.
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act ("COBRA") is a federal statute that permits workers and their dependents who lost group health coverage to remain on their former employer's plan for a certain period of time, with the worker/dependents typically having the full financial responsibility to pay the monthly premiums - plus an extra 2% admin fee (gotta read that fine print . . .). Under ARPA, between April 1 and September 30, 2021, employers or plan sponsors must pay all eligible employees' COBRA premiums. Companies can offset the cost by claiming a tax credit. Notice of this new rule must be sent to all employees, with a model notice to be rolled out shortly. Stay tuned . . .
Extended Unemployment Assistance
ARPA makes several important changes to unemployment insurance assistance. First, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance ("PUA") will stick around through the summer, being extended until September 6, 2021. Second, unemployed workers can get an additional $300 per week in funding, in addition to whatever they’re receiving through PUA or regular state unemployment benefits. And finally, those receiving unemployment benefits get an exclusion from federal income tax for the initial $10,200 they receive. Good news to those who are out of work. Perhaps not such good news to businesses struggling to rehire.
That’s all for this one. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions concerning COVID policies in the workplace, vaccine programs, or anything we discussed here. Or just to say hi and tell us how much you love this newsletter. Stay safe!
ABOUT WEINSTEIN + KLEIN P.C.
Established in 2019, New York City-based Weinstein + Klein is a boutique law firm focused on labor and employment law, business matters, and litigation. Weinstein + Klein works with businesses, individuals, and entrepreneurs to protect their legal interests. In addition to advising clients on employment matters and working with businesses to minimize their risk of litigation, Weinstein + Klein advises small businesses and start-ups on various business law matters. For more information about Weinstein + Klein, please visit www.weinsteinklein.com.