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COVID-19 EMPLOYMENT AND FINANCIAL UPDATE

March 23, 2020

COVID-19 EMPLOYMENT AND FINANCIAL UPDATE

With regard to the IRS, the deadline to file taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020. Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax. The IRS is continuing to process tax returns, issue refunds and help taxpayers to the greatest extent possible.

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Act).

The main benefits for employers are as follows:

  • For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid child care leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or child care providers are unavailable.
  • Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.
    • Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.
    • Employers face no payroll tax liability.
    • Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.
  • Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.
    • An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided
    • Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.
  • Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.
  • To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.
  • Eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.

The Act provides that employees of eligible employers can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 100% of the employee’s pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and seeking a medical diagnosis. An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, to care for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing substantially similar conditions as specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services can receive two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay. An employee who is unable to work due to a need to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care provider is unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, may in some instances receive up to an additional ten weeks of expanded paid family and medical leave at 2/3 the employee’s pay.

For an employee who is unable to work because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days.

For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child’s school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are

entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

EMPLOYMENT

New Jersey has among the most comprehensive Earned Sick Leave, Temporary Disability and Family Leave Insurance laws in the country, which cover all employees – full-time, part-time, temporary and seasonal.

The following scenarios address most of what the New Jersey workforce is currently facing amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and may be helpful to you or a loved one during this time.

In New Jersey, a person who is out of work because his employer voluntarily closed due to COVID-19 could be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI). However, if an employee is still being paid by his employer during the outbreak, he should not apply for unemployment benefits.

If a person is still employed, but the regular hours of work have been reduced, he could be eligible for partial Unemployment Insurance benefits. In order to be eligible, the person cannot work more than 80% of the hours normally worked.

An employee who cannot work at all because his place of business was ordered closed by a public official for a public health reason may use accrued earned sick leave, and when the employee uses up his earned sick leave and still cannot return to work due to the mandated closure, he may apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

Similarly, if a place of business was closed by a public official for a public health reason, yet it remains open in defiance of that directive, and an employee refuses to go to work under those circumstances, he may use accrued earned sick leave.

If an employee has received a recommendation from his healthcare provider not to return to work due to being at a greater risk of COVID-19-related health complications due to a pre-existing

health condition, he may be able to use accrued Earned Sick Leave or Temporary Disability Insurance. Likewise, if an employee was told to self-quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure outside his workplace, he can use accrued earned sick leave. How much time depends on the, “[t]ime needed for diagnosis, care, or treatment of, or recovery from, an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or other adverse health condition, or for preventative medical care for the employee;” and, the permitted use to protect public health: “because of the issuance by a public health authority of a determination that the presence in the community of the employee, or a member of the employee’s family in need of care by the employee, would jeopardize the health of others.”

An employee who must care for a loved one with COVID-19 may use accrued earned sick leave, and when that sick leave has been exhausted, he may apply for Family Leave Insurance under the New Jersey Family Leave Act.

If an employee was exposed to COVID-19 during the course of his employment and must now self-quarantine, he must first use accrued earned sick leave, and will then be eligible for Workers’ Compensation. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 and it was not contracted during the course if his employment, he may use his accrued earned sick leave, and then may apply for Temporary Disability Insurance.

  • Online Course: Discrimination in the Workplace

    Have you ever experienced discrimination in the workplace? Do you know your rights as an employee? This class will explore topics including: sexual harassment; discrimination on the basis of age, race, disability, or other protection classifications; medical marijuana in the workplace; whistle-blower claims; NJ’s newly enacted Wage Theft Act; the difference between the Federal and State family leave acts; and other laws that protect employees. We will discuss hypothetical employment claims based on real life employment experiences. Update: This course will also cover new employee protections available due to COVID-19.

    The instructor for this course is Mason, Griffin & Pierson attorney, Elizabeth Zuckerman, Esq., who has been practicing employment law in Princeton for 30 years.

    Register at
    https://www.ssreg.com/princeton/classes/results.asp?string=zuckerman

  • COVID-19 Employment & Financial Update (3/24/2020)

    Click Link Here to read important information regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

  • NELA-NJ Attorney Zuckerman

    In a recent decision (Justin Wild v. Carriage Funeral Holdings, Inc.), the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that an employee who is fired for using medical marijuana outside the workplace may bring a claim for disability discrimination under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. Mason, Griffin & Pierson Attorney, Elizabeth Zuckerman, who argued the cause for Amicus Curiae National Employment Lawyers Association of New Jersey, stated the "decision is a win for employees who test positive for marijuana due to their lawful use of medical marijuana outside the workplace."

  • Scollo Joins Firm

    Jeanne-Marie Scollo has become an Associate with Mason, Griffin & Pierson, P.C. She earned her J.D from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. She is a member of the firm's Local Government Law and Litigation Practice Groups. Ms. Scollo brings over nine years of previous legal experience to the firm. She served as Deputy County Counsel for Middlesex County from 2014 to 2019 and was previously a solo practitioner in New Brunswick. Ms. Scollo is admitted in New Jersey and New York and is a member of the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys, Mercer County, Middlesex County, and New Jersey State Bar Associations.