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In response to the pandemic, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “FFCRA”) that provided up to 10 days of emergency paid sick leave for COVID-related absences and up to 12 weeks emergency paid family leave to care for a child in the event of a COVID-related school or daycare closure.  These benefits went into effect in April 2020 and will terminate on December 31, 2020.

Many speculated that Congress would extend the FFCRA benefits to provide continued relief to individuals and families still grappling with work-related absences caused by the ongoing pandemic.   Cases have spiked in many areas and schools continue to provide remote learning.  Although the Consolidated Appropriations Act (the “Act”) signed by President Trump earlier this week provides various pandemic relief programs, the Act did not extend the expiration date of the FFCRA.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act’s extension of FFCRA Tax Credits for Employers.

As the pandemic enters its tenth month, employers have had to adjust to significant interruptions to the workplace and the new mandates under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and other state law protection to individuals and families impacted by the virus.   Now that several pharmaceutical companies are about to rollout COVID-19 vaccines, employers are facing a new dilemma – whether private employers can mandate employees get vaccinated and, if so, should they do so?

Although it is questionable whether the federal government has the authority to mandate vaccines, President Elect Joe Biden has stated that he does not intend to make vaccinations mandatory, preferring to implement programs to encourage voluntary vaccinations.   Dr. Anthony Fauci has likewise expressed his objection to compulsory mandates.   On the other hand, mandatory vaccinations can be imposed on the state level but to date states have not expressed a firm intention to go this route.   As with influenza, the CDC recommends individuals get the COVID-19 vaccination when it becomes available, especially healthcare workers, but does not issue any mandates to the healthcare systems.

According to the Pew Research Center, four out of ten Americans indicate that they would likely not opt for vaccination due to concerns over the unprecedented speed of the vaccine’s development and its untested long term safety record.

In the latest article for WealthManagement.com, the Honorable Judge Katherine Dupuis, (Ret.) of Lindabury’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice Group offers insight on how mediation can be a viable way to achieve cost savings and justice during estate-planning disputes. This write-up addresses both what can go wrong and how to move forward through the process. To read it in its entirety, click here.

On the heels of the victory of the recreational marijuana referendum at the polls, the New Jersey Senate and Assembly moved swiftly to introduce proposed legislation regulating the use, licensing and taxation of marijuana.    As of this writing the Legislature was close to sealing a deal and a vote could come as early as December 18, 2020.   Despite the fact that marijuana use in the workplace has significant consequences for employers, especially those with high populations of safety sensitive workers, the most recent version of the bill is long on employee protections and short on protections for employers.

Preserved Employer Rights.  Similar to the earlier Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act affording workplace protections to medical marijuana users, the proposed legislation provides that nothing in the Act shall be deemed to:

  1. Restrict or preempt an employer’s right or obligation (as required for federal contractors) to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace;

In the face of mounting COVID-19 infection rates throughout the country, on December 4, 2020 the CDC issued a recommendation for the universal use of facemasks in indoor spaces as well as outdoor spaces when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.   In addition, the CDC recommends the wearing of facemasks within households when a member of the household has been infected or had a potential exposure to the virus.   The CDC noted that the proper use of facemasks is critical to reducing the spread of the virus “particularly in light of estimates that approximately one half of new infections are transmitted by persons who have no symptoms.”

The CDC also urges that exposures to “nonessential indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings pose a preventable risk to all participants” and urges continued prevention strategies such as take away service, outdoor dining and gatherings, if social distancing can be maintained, and the continued promotion of teleworking and other flexible work arrangements.

The CDC observed that increased testing, diagnosis and isolation should be implemented to interrupt the “silent transmission” of the virus from asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic persons, as well as case investigation and contract tracing to identify, quarantine and test close contacts.

Until now, the CDC recommended a 14-day quarantine for individuals who might have had “close contact” with a person who has or is suspected of having COVID-19.[1]   This quarantine was longer than the 10-day recommendation for those who test positive, as the longer quarantine period is based on estimates of the upper boundaries of the viral incubation period.  However, in its new guidance issued December 2, 2020, the CDC acknowledged three adverse consequences of the 14-day quarantine:

  • It can impose personal burdens that may affect physical and mental health as well as economic hardship that may reduce compliance.
  • It may pose additional burdens on public health systems and communities, especially when cases are rising and the need to impose quarantines are rapidly rising.

On October 28th, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 192 providing mandatory standards in the workplace in an effort to protect employees during the pandemic.

Lisa Gingeleskie, a member of Lindabury’s Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits group provided commentary to NJBIZ on how employers of the Garden State must ensure compliance with the recently imposed COVID-19 workplace protocols. The writeup breaks down crucial details on the new standards and protocols to help employers achieve compliance.

Featured in the November 30, 2020 Edition of NJBIZ, the entire article can be found here.

On October 29, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), the Department of Labor (“DOL”), and Department of Treasury (“DOT”) collaborated to issue a final “transparency rule” aimed at providing greater information to consumers, thereby allowing them to explore different healthcare options and avoid surprise billing for services rendered.  Additionally, the rule requires the public disclosure of negotiated rates for in-network providers and amounts allowed for out-of-network providers.

Disclosure of Provider Rates

Under the rule, non-grandfathered health plans and insurers must publish their negotiated rates and allowable out-of-network charges on a public website, which is to be updated monthly through three machine-readable files.  The website must be publicly available, accessible without charge, and cannot require a user account, password, or other credentials, or submission of personally identifiable information to access the files.  Specifically, the files will reflect negotiated rates for in-network services, historical payments to and billed charges from out-of-network providers, and in-network negotiated rates.  The files must also show historical net prices for covered prescription drugs at the pharmacy level.

We are pleased to announce the Honorable Judge Katherine Dupuis (Ret.) of Lindabury’s Alternative Dispute Resolution practice group has been named been as the 2020 Professional Lawyer of the Year by the Union County Bar Association. This award is presented to lawyers who are honored by colleagues for their exemplary conduct, competence, diligence, and demeanor.

Judge Dupuis (Ret.) concentrates her practice on mediation and arbitration in the areas of commercial disputes, probate mediation, and divorce mediation. To contact Judge Dupuis (Ret.) or to learn more about the services she offers, please click here.

As technology associated with commercial real estate has evolved, landlords are confronted with conundrum: How to use new technologies to modernize buildings and increase profitability by attracting high quality tenants through maximizing tenant experience, while addressing the cybersecurity threats that accompany these new technologies?

The exact problem will differ based on the type of commercial property being offered by a landlord, but the overriding concern remains the same, namely, how to secure the property from cyber-security breaches.  For instance, whether a landlord owns: (i) a climate controlled industrial property used for housing cloud servers, storing food or pharmaceuticals, (ii) a multi-tenant retail property with an open WIFI network and cloud-based security system, or (iii) a mixed use development with state of the art building systems, should the integrated building systems of these properties be accessed and manipulated by a hacker, it could wreak havoc on the tenants, who will seek relief from the landlord. What can a commercial landlord do today to prevent this disaster from occurring and protect its assets and reputation?

Step 1: Technology Audit

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