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One of the hottest topics in the pre-pandemic world of employment law was whether gig drivers and workers are employees or independent contractors. The term gig worker applies to a variety of work arrangements, but is increasingly used to describe workers who provide services for online ride sharing businesses such as Uber and Lyft and online food delivery services such as Grubhub and Doordash.

For years, workers have been battling with the companies over the legal status of their work relationship. The question is whether gig workers are independent contractors or whether they are employees. Independent contractors are not entitled to workers compensation benefits and unemployment benefits, and the company is not required to comply with minimum wage and overtime laws for independent. So, it’s highly beneficial for the companies to have their workers classified as independent contractors, but highly detrimental to the workers.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the viewpoint, the question of whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee is not left to the company to decide. Rather, the question is a legal issue and resolved by applying legal principles to the business/worker relationship.

At Famighetti & Weinick PLLC, our Long Island employment lawyers are fielding calls from employees worried about a number of different coronavirus related employment issues. One serious issue we are seeing is health care workers’ concerns about working when the best protective equipment may not be available or may not be being provided by the employer. Specifically, what we’re seeing is questions about whether health care workers, such as nurses, doctors, and nursing home aides, must report to work when their employer is not providing equipment like n-95 respirator masks. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses workplace safety issues related to working in the era of Covid-19.

Like most employment questions relating to coronavirus, there are no easy answers. We’ll first look at some legal considerations, then we’ll address some practical considerations.

OSHA is the federal agency which regulates workplace health and safety. OSHA regulation Section 13(a) allows employees to refuse to work when the employee believes that he or she is in “imminent danger.” To be considered an imminent danger, the workplace condition must “reasonably be expected to cause death or serious harm immediately or before the imminence of such danger can be eliminated through” OSHA’ enforcement procedures. In further defining imminent danger, the condition must be reasonably expected to shorten life or substantially reduce physical or mental efficiency.

El 18 de Marzo de 2020, el presidente Trump promulgó La Ley de Primera Respuesta al Coronavirus de las Familias. La ley establece, entre otras cosas, licencias para empleados relacionados con el coronavirus y entrará en vigencia 15 días a partir del 18 de Marzo. La ley proporciona licencia por enfermedad de emergencia, licencia familiar de emergencia y créditos fiscales. Al igual que la ley de Nueva York sobre la que escribimos en el blog a principios de esta semana, la aplicación de la ley varía según el tamaño del empleador. Los detalles de la ley se analizan a continuación.

La Ley de Primera Respuesta al Coronavirus de las Familias requiere que ciertos empleadores proporcionen a sus empleados licencia remunerada por enfermedad o familia por razones específicas relacionadas con COVID-19. [1] La División de Salarios y Horas del Departamento de Trabajo administra y aplica los requisitos de licencia pagada de la nueva ley. Estas disposiciones se aplicarán desde la fecha de entrada en vigor hasta el 31 de diciembre de 2020.

Aucensia  Por  Enfermedad 

En estos tiempos inciertos, los Neoyorquinos están luchando por encontrar consuelo siempre que sea posible. En el contexto del empleo, los empleados se han enfrentado a preguntas sobre la seguridad laboral, la seguridad de los ingresos y cómo equilibrar las instrucciones para quedarse en casa del gobierno y los intentos de los empleadores de mantener sus negocios en funcionamiento.

El 18 de Marzo del 2020, la ley fue firmada por el gobernador de Nueva York, Andrew Cuomo, promulgaría leyes para otorgar licencias y licencias por enfermedad pagadas por ausencias laborales relacionadas con el coronavirus. El blog de derecho laboral de Long Island de hoy discute las disposiciones de la ley.

Empleados sujetos a cuarantena mandatoria o cuarentena precaucinarias ordenado por el Estata de Nueva York , Departamento de Salud o culaquier entidad gubernamental debidamente authorizada para emitar dicha orden, tendra derecho a licencia por enfermedada pagada de la siguente manera:

Long Island employment lawyers Famighetti & Weinick PLLC have started a new “Lockdown Video series.”  The series will address emerging employment law issues created because of the Covid-19 / coronavirus epidemic. As videos become available, they will be posted to this blog.

Episode 1: Must Healthcare Workers Report to Work if not Given Protective Equipment?

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  The law provides for, among other things, leave for employees related to the coronavirus and becomes effective 15 days from March 18.  The act provides emergency sick leave, emergency family leave, and tax credits. Like the New York law we blogged about earlier this week, the law’s application varies depending on employer size.  The specifics of the law are discussed below.

Sick Leave

The law provides for paid sick leave for some employees.  Preliminarily, this portion of the law applies only to employers with less than 500 employees.  As to employers who meet this number requirement, employees may qualify for paid sick leave if they meet any of these requirements:

In these uncertain times, New Yorkers are struggling to find reassurance wherever possible. In the context of employment, employees have been facing questions about job security, income security, and how to balance stay-at-home instructions coming from the government and employers’ attempts to keep their businesses running.

On March 18, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State would be enacting laws to provide for leave and paid sick leave for coronavirus related work absences.  Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the law’s provisions.

Governor Cuomo issued a press release detailing the specifics of the new leave law.  Basically, the law provides for either paid leave or unpaid leave with job security, depending on factors such as employer size and revenue, and the reason for the employee’s leave.  The specifics are detailed below:

As employment law attorneys, our email and social media is flooded with information from fellow employment lawyers about how employers should handle the coronavirus pandemic. Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses some issues relating to how employees might handle the crisis.  Please note, this blog is informational only and should not be relied upon as legal advice, and certainly not medical advice.  The information below should be considered “food for thought.” If you have specific questions about your employment situation, we encourage you to call our lawyers, who remain available by phone throughout the crisis.

1. Listen to advice from government and medical authorities

First and foremost, pay attention to guidance given by officials from the government and from medical authorities.  Leading medical authorities include the CDC and WHO, but local health departments are also issuing guidance.  Best practices almost universally include washing hands, avoiding close contact with others, and proper hygiene including coughing and sneezing best practices. If you must report to work, continue to follow these instructions.

Resign or you will be fired. This ultimatum is often posed to employees. Employees in this position have to weigh many considerations, including the effect of the black mark of a termination, potentially waiving certain rights by resigning, and other effects to employment benefits based on how the separation from employment is categorized.

Sometimes, the decision can be easier for employees. Employees who are at-will or in probationary assignments which can be terminated for any reason, have no job protections. Thus, when an employer delivers the resign or be fired ultimatum, it truly is a threat that the employee will be fired, and the employer may genuinely be offering the employee a benefit of leaving without the scar of a termination on the employee’s record.

Other times, employees enjoy job protections and cannot be fired without a hearing or some level of process. This is particularly true with civil service employees in New York.  It is quite common for municipal employers to offer permanent civil service employees the option of resigning in lieu of a termination hearing. This provides the employee the benefit of leaving without a record of termination (an important benefit for civil service workers) and gives the employer the benefit of certainty of separation. Indeed, when a termination proceeding proceeds in good faith with a neutral decision maker, the outcome of the hearing is not foreseeable for either party.

On March 6, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, handed a gift to employees.  The Court reviewed issues related to (1) hostile work environment claims and (2) the standard for retaliation claims.  On both issues, the Court’s decision came out highly favorable for employees.  Today’s Long Island employment law blog discusses the decision in Rasmy v. Marriott International, Inc.

Hostile Work Environment Claims are Fact Intensive and Should Not Be Decided on Summary Judgment

Under federal law, a hostile work environment claim must show, among other things, that the employee was subjected to abusive and unwelcome conduct based on the employee’s membership in a protected class.  Further, the conduct must be severe or pervasive such that it altered the terms and conditions of the employee’s employment.  Notably, New York law expressly eliminates the severe or pervasive standard, so that showing is not necessary when suing under state law, but still must be met when suing in New York, but under federal law.  The Rasmy decision addresses the requirements (1) conduct based on the employee’s protected class and (2) the terms and conditions of employment. These points are discussed below.

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