No, we weren’t pulling a Ferris Bueller and galivanting around the city, we just wanted to make this edition worthwhile. This week, we’re sharing recent COVID-19 updates in New York and New Jersey, a refresher on New York’s new whistleblower law, and exciting news for fellow entrepreneurs (spoiler: everyone is starting a new business!). Plus: alcohol-related news! You know life – much like legal updates – moves pretty fast . . . if you don’t stop and read our newsletter once in a while, you could miss it (or, ya know, get sued). Danke schoen!
New York’s Whistleblower Law Officially Goes into Effect
New York might as well start handing out the whistles to employees . . .
As we previously warned, New York’s primary whistleblower law (Labor Law § 740) was recently amended. The law previously protected employees who report “actual” violations of a law or regulation that constitute a “substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.” Successful litigants could only recover back pay (no compensatory or punitive damages, etc.).
Good news for whistleblowers, bad news for employers. The amended law now only requires a “reasonable belief” that an employer’s conduct violates a law, rule, or regulation. That means it just got a lot easier to get whistleblower protection (a lower hurdle, if you will). There are also enhanced penalties and a longer statute of limitations (from 1 year to 2 years). Employers are required to provide written notice of these changes to their employees, so be sure to update those written policies. Get your earplugs ready . . . 2022 will be loud.
[Cue the COVID-19 stuff!] These changes are effective as of January 26, 2022, which coincides with recent COVID-19 developments such as NY’s mask mandate being lifted, appealed, then reinstated, and now lifted again. We don’t know our calculus, but constantly changing rules and guidance + relaxed pleading standards = potential trouble. Companies get confused, employees blow whistles, and things get messy. And don’t forget about OSHA’s general duty clause! Employers have an affirmative duty to keep the workplace safe and free from hazards that can cause physical harm, even without State-mandated COVID-19 guidance.
Now more than ever, it’s critical that New York businesses (all businesses, really) regularly revisit their anti-retaliation/whistleblower policies and ensure that (1) they’re compliant with the local rules and regulations and (2) their employees know about them! If you don’t know where to start, we can help.
New Jersey Imposes COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for Healthcare Workers
Under Governor Murphy’s recent COVID-19 executive order, healthcare workers in New Jersey have deadlines to get vaccinated – with most workers having until February 28th to get the second dose (or booster). Any workers who are not yet eligible for a booster shot have until 3 weeks after their booster eligibility to get one. So, if you are a healthcare worker and haven’t received your full round of vaccines (or boosters), better get going before your employers give you the boot.
The Bright Side of the Great Resignation: A New Wave of Entrepreneurs
In business news, we’d like to focus on some positive news: everyone is starting a business! According to recent Census Bureau data, new business applications jumped 25% percent in 2020 and 23% in 2021! Maybe it’s the Great Resignation, or employees working from home spending too much time on their side hustles, or something else. Either way, this pandemic is proving to be a source of inspiration for budding business owners.
This means that there are a lot of people with questions out there: LLC or corporation? What contracts do I need? What’s a partnership agreement? Can I work for clients in another state?
We’ve been working with entrepreneurs and business owners on starting new businesses, buying or selling existing businesses, and making sure that their houses are in order. It’s exciting to be a part of this and to help our clients launch their next success.
For those of us dreaming of Cajun seasoning, jazz, and outdoor drinks . . .
If you need a drink – hopefully not from reading this – we have good news for you! Your local park may start to look more like those in one of our favorite cities: New Orleans. Both New York and New Jersey recently amended their public consumption laws. New Jersey is allowing municipalities to designate certain outdoor areas as open-container areas. New York is now permanently allowing the sale of to-go drinks for off-premises consumption. Cue the Louis Armstrong!
And to that we say, cheers! Until next time.
Damien + Brian
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.