Seyfarth Policy Matters Newsletter - July 2020 #3

Seyfarth Shaw LLP

House Appropriation Committee Approves a Slew of 2021 Spending Bills.  Last week, we updated on the House Appropriations Committee’s work on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Bill, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, and the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) funding bill for Fiscal Year 2021. This week, the House Appropriation Committee continued its work, passing a number of funding bills for consideration by the House Floor. For example, the committee approved the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, which would raise Treasury's discretionary appropriations by $601.4 million and increase the SEC's funding by $105 million, while holding steady the SBA's discretionary appropriation of up to $30 billion in loan commitments under its 7(a) program. This week also saw the full committee markups of FY 2021 spending bills for, among others, homeland security, financial services, defense, commerce. Justice, transportation, and, most important for this space, the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bills. The full Committee print of the spending bill can be found here. Last week, we noted a number of riders in the measure that we expect the Senate to strike. We have confirmed those measures remain in the draft of the bill sent to the full House. Stay tuned to this space.

Did You Know: New Jersey Expanded Its PFL Benefits and Colorado Enacted Statewide PSL Law.  In late January 2019, New Jersey Assembly Bill No. A3975 (primary sponsors Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D) and Aura Dunn (D)) was passed along party lines, sent to the Senate (Bill No. S2528) and swiftly passed there — also along party lines. The following month, Governor Phil Murphy signed the bill into law (P.L. 2019, chapter 37), which represented a sweeping phased expansion to the state’s paid family leave program. While some changes were effective immediately upon enactment — for example, the allowance that employees may take leave to care for additional family members — other changes were embargoed until July 2020. As Seyfarth noted in a Legal Update last year exploring the full law, as of July 1, 2020, employees may now take 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period — instead of six; and the intermittent leave allotment also increases with the July 1 effective date from 42 days to 56 days in a 12-month period. The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development officially announced the new changes earlier this month. Meanwhile, across the country in Colorado, after multiple revisions to Bill No. SB20-205 (mandating paid sick leave for employees) in both the state’s House and Senate, the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, which also accounts for the current COVID-19 pandemic and potential future public health emergencies, passed along mostly party lines (House / Senate) at the close of the legislative session and was signed into law by Governor Jared Polis on July 14, 2020. While the general paid sick leave (PSL) aspects of the Act do not begin until at least January 1, 2021, other COVID-19 related aspects appear to begin immediately. For a full discussion of the new Colorado law, see Seyfarth’s Legal Update.

EEOC to Issue Analysis of EEO-1 Component 2 data for FY 2017 and 2018.  Last year, as Seyfarth noted here, a D.C. federal court ordered the EEOC to collect data on employee compensation and hours worked from covered employers sorted by job category, pay band, race, ethnicity, and gender (the so-called “Component-2” of the EEO-1 form).  This week, the EEOC voted unanimously to fund a statistical study by the National Academies of Sciences. According to EEOC Chief Data Officer Chris Haffer, “[t]his study will allow the EEOC to get an independent assessment of the quality and utility of the data.”   Seyfarth has long been involved in this issue.

Virginia Does What Nancy Pelosi Hasn’t Convinced the Senate to Do: Adopt a Workplace Safety Standard Addressing COVID-19.  The Virginia Legislature has been a hot topic of discussion here at the PMN, and an end does not appear in sight — this week, Virginia became the first state in the nation to adopt statewide workplace safety standards to address COVID-19.  For months, House speaker Nancy Pelosi has advocated a nationwide workplace safety standard that would be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Indeed, as Seyfarth noted here, a central tenet of the House-passed HEROES Act is a requirement that OSHA issue an emergency temporary standard that would ostensibly cover all workers exposed to the virus.

Enhanced Unemployment Insurance Has Been a Life Preserver for Many, But It Expires Soon.  As Seyfarth explained here and here, the $600 federal enhancement to unemployment insurance benefits is set to expire on July 31, and the fate of further federal enhancement is up in the air. Given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the South and West, the number of unemployment claims is likely to rise. Democrats have long proposed extending the $600 weekly kicker from the feds; Republicans and the Administration have historically opposed such an extension. In his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, DOL secretary Eugene Scalia advocated for somewhat of a middle ground: while “[u]nemployment benefits will still be needed past that date, . . . [the] circumstances that originally called for the $600 plus-up will have changed.” Just this week, the Administration announced that it was open to a compromise on the measure. Such a compromise could perhaps be a $200 reduction in weekly benefits, or a $400 reduction coupled with an additional stimulus check. Regardless, the next two weeks of negotiation will be interesting. Stay tuned.

Nearly Half the Country is Now Covered by New York’s Quarantine Order.  New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced on Tuesday (CuomoMurphyLamont) that they’ve added travelers from four additional states, bringing the original list of eight states included in the joint incoming Travel Advisory to 22, representing nearly half the states in the Union. Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin were added as they have met the metrics to qualify for the Travel Advisory, while Delaware has been removed. Travelers from the 22 effected states will have to isolate for 14 days upon arriving in the three northeastern states. Additionally, Governor Cuomo mandated that out-of-state visitors from “high COVID states” must provide contact information when they arrive in New York State. “If you fail to provide it, you will receive a summons with a $2k fine,” Cuomo recently tweeted. “We’re serious about enforcing quarantine.” The fine was formalized in Governor Cuomo’s June 24 Executive Order No. 205 and, in fact, notes that “[a]ny violation of a quarantine or isolation order…” may be “subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.” Just before the July 4th weekend, New York State’s health department issued FAQs concerning the travel restrictions. While most are consistent with the initial understanding of the quarantine rules, Seyfarth highlighted several noteworthy points (e.g. no paid sick leave for voluntary travelers) in a recent Legal Update.

COVID-19 Causes California to, Once Again, Shut Down Most Businesses.  As the Nation struggles though one of the bleakest economic environments in a Century, the recent spike in COVID-19 has forced the world’s 5th largest economy to once again close for business. Governor Newsom ordered 58 counties to close bars and shutter indoor restaurants, movie theaters and wineries indefinitely. He also ordered 29 counties on the state’s watch list to close gyms, churches, offices, hair salons, indoor malls, and other businesses effective immediately. While enforcement of COVID-19 related restriction has been lax to date, Governor Newsom announced that enforcement would be ramped up.  Seyfarth issued a helpful update on the Order, which can be found here.

Movement on a Number of Bills in NYS Assembly.  On Wednesday, the NYS Assembly Labor Committee convened to review more than 40 bills, providing hints of what’s on the Legislature’s to-do list when members hold a rare July session next Monday. Among the bills reviewed was Bill No. A10674, which we discussed previously, that would require employers provide WARN notice, when required, to affected communities and school districts, in addition to the existing notification requirements, to ensure that these communities are aware of mass layoffs. On Wednesday, the bill was referred from the Labor Committee to the Rules Committee, a sign that the measure has legs. A number of other bills were addressed, some of which have been lying dormant in committee for months. Among the more noteworthy are: Bill No. A10353a (requiring employers to notify employees if they come into contact with other employees who have been diagnosed in relation to a disease outbreak causing a public health emergency); and Bill No. A05367 (which would make all labor contract negotiations public. The latter would also mandate that all documents relating to contract negotiations be made public). Additionally, on August 13, the Assembly plans to hold a joint session to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on workers. The hearing will explore the impacts of COVID-19 from a worker's perspective, including unemployment insurance receipts, workplace safety standards, and the impact of the federal Payroll Protection Program.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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