Police Reform in New York State

August 10, 2020

By Jacqueline A. Giordano and Christopher T. Kurtz

Following nationwide protests, federal, state and local lawmakers across the country have considered adopting legislation aimed at addressing racial inequalities in policing and modernizing longstanding police strategies, policies and procedures. In June 2020, the Governor of New York signed an executive order mandating police reform, and the New York Legislature correspondingly passed a series of laws which will have a significant impact on police operations throughout the State – ranging from small, local police departments to large, regional agencies.

On June 12, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order 203 (the Order), entitled New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative.  The Order requires every local government that has a police agency employing police officers (as defined under the Criminal Procedure Law § 1.20) to conduct a comprehensive review of its department’s force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practices. 

In addition, Executive Order 203 requires each local government to develop a plan to improve deployments, strategies, policies, procedures and practices of its police departments to address the particular needs of the community and promote community engagement to foster trust, fairness, legitimacy and address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.

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Federal District Court in New York Holds that Portions of the FFCRA Regulations Exceeded the USDOL's Statutory Authority

August 7, 2020

By Mary E. Aldridge and Subhash Viswanathan

On August 3, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York held that the U.S. Department of Labor ("DOL") exceeded its statutory authority by promulgating certain regulations implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ("FFCRA"). The FFCRA, which was enacted on March 18, 2020, is one of the major relief statutes passed by Congress in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It contains two major provisions: (1) the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act ("EFMLA"), which grants paid leave to employees who are unable to work because they must care for a dependent child due to the closure of the child's school or place of child care; and (2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act ("EPSLA"), which requires covered employers to provide paid sick leave to employees for one of six qualifying COVID-19-related reasons.

The State of New York brought suit against the DOL pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, challenging several features of the DOL's regulations on the ground that they unduly restricted the paid leave available to employees under the statute. The Court, in large part, agreed with the State.

Read More >> Federal District Court in New York Holds that Portions of the FFCRA Regulations Exceeded the USDOL's Statutory Authority

Supreme Court Applies "Ministerial Exception" to Teachers at Religious Schools

July 20, 2020

By Theresa E. Rusnak

On July 8, 2020, the Supreme Court analyzed the ministerial exception for employees who allege employment discrimination claims for the first time in nearly a decade when it issued its decision in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru. The decision, which was issued in two combined cases on appeal before the Court, confirms the general principle under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that religious institutions must retain the right to select, supervise, and, if necessary, remove an employee who qualifies as a "minister" without interference by secular authorities. The Court construed the definition of “minister” broadly in holding that the ministerial exception applied to two teachers at religious schools who had filed employment discrimination claims pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) respectively.

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Update on the Impact of New York Travel Restrictions on Employers

July 8, 2020

By Theresa E. Rusnak and Subhash Viswanathan

On July 2, 2020, the New York Department of Health (DOH) published Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the travel restrictions imposed by Executive Order 205 (EO 205) and Guidance issued by DOH on June 24, 2020, both effective on June 25, 2020. For more information about EO 205 and the DOH’s June 24th guidance (Original Guidance) on the travel restrictions, please see our earlier client alerts here and here.

Read More >> Update on the Impact of New York Travel Restrictions on Employers

Reminder: The Tip Credit for Employees Outside the Hospitality Industry Has Been Cut in Half Effective Today

June 30, 2020

By Subhash Viswanathan

Last week, the New York State Department of Labor formally adopted an amendment to the Minimum Wage Order for Miscellaneous Industries and Occupations that cuts the tip credit for all miscellaneous industry workers in half effective June 30, 2020. The amendment also eliminates the tip credit completely for miscellaneous industry workers effective December 31, 2020. As we previously reported on this blog, the NYSDOL recommended the elimination of the tip credit for miscellaneous industry workers after holding multiple hearings across the state regarding the impact of tip credits and Gov. Cuomo announced in January that the NYSDOL's recommendation would be implemented in two phases.

Read More >> Reminder: The Tip Credit for Employees Outside the Hospitality Industry Has Been Cut in Half Effective Today

Impact of Executive Order 205 on Employee Travel

June 27, 2020

By Theresa E. Rusnak and Jessica C. Moller

On June 24, 2020, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 205 (EO 205), which sets forth restricted travel areas within the U.S. for New Yorkers and those traveling to New York. If an individual arrives in New York after having spent more than 24 hours in a restricted area, the individual could be subject to a 14-day quarantine. This quarantine must be carried out in accordance with New York Department of Health (DOH) regulations for self-quarantining, and violators are subject to penalties of up to $10,000. The DOH reports that it will update the list of restricted states weekly. For more information on EO 205 and the DOH guidance, please see our earlier client alert.

Read More >> Impact of Executive Order 205 on Employee Travel

Positive Developments for New York Employers on the Use of the Fluctuating Workweek Method of Computing Overtime Compensation

June 24, 2020

By Subhash Viswanathan

On June 8, the U.S. Department of Labor issued its final rule to provide some clarity for employers seeking to use the fluctuating workweek method of computing overtime compensation under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The final rule, which is essentially the same as the proposed rule that was issued on November 5, 2019, lists each of the five requirements for using the fluctuating workweek method separately and explicitly states that bonuses, premium payments, and other additional payments of any kind are compatible with the use of the fluctuating workweek method. The final rule becomes effective on August 7.

About one week after the USDOL's fluctuating workweek rule was issued, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (the Federal appellate court with jurisdiction over employers in New York) issued a decision in the case of Thomas et al. v. Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. In the Bed Bath & Beyond case, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a collective action filed by a group of Department Managers who alleged that Bed Bath & Beyond had improperly used the fluctuating workweek method to pay them overtime.

Read More >> Positive Developments for New York Employers on the Use of the Fluctuating Workweek Method of Computing Overtime Compensation

National Labor Relations Board Reverses Obama-Era Decision Regarding Standard for Asserting Jurisdiction Over Faculty Members at Religious Institutions

June 17, 2020

By Mary E. Aldridge

On June 10, 2020, the National Labor Relations Board (the NLRB or the Board) issued a decision that reversed a 2014 Board decision regarding the test for exercising jurisdiction over faculty members at religious institutions.  In Bethany College, the Board held that the test for exercising such jurisdiction that was established by the Board in Pacific Lutheran University was inconsistent with U.S. Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals precedent, and restored the test established by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in University of Great Falls v. NLRB.

Read More >> National Labor Relations Board Reverses Obama-Era Decision Regarding Standard for Asserting Jurisdiction Over Faculty Members at Religious Institutions

Repeal of Civil Rights Law Section 50-a: What This Means for the Disclosure of Police Disciplinary Records

June 12, 2020

By Christopher T. Kurtz and Jacqueline A. Giordano

Earlier this week, in response to a nationwide outcry for police reform, the New York Legislature repealed Civil Rights Law § 50-a, a decades-old statute that largely prohibited the disclosure of police disciplinary records.  The justification included the following:  “Repeal of § 50-a will help the public regain trust that law enforcement officers and agencies may be held accountable for misconduct.”  Governor Cuomo has now signed the new legislation, which takes effect immediately.

Read More >> Repeal of Civil Rights Law Section 50-a: What This Means for the Disclosure of Police Disciplinary Records

Business Immigration in the Era of COVID-19 Update: Presidential Proclamations, Travel Restrictions, Resumption of Premium Processing and the Reopening of USCIS

June 2, 2020

By Joanna L. Silver

As we reported in our recent information memo, COVID-19 has created an evolving immigration environment. The related federal agencies and the White House have responded with a number of temporary policy and procedural changes to help minimize the spread of the virus in the U.S. and to help employers comply with various laws during this extremely challenging time. It remains essential for employers to maintain immigration compliance during the COVID-19 emergency and to take the steps necessary to maintain the nonimmigrant status and work authorization of their foreign national employees. In addition, now that businesses and organizations are beginning to reopen pursuant to government guidelines, employers are advised to keep abreast of the latest legal developments and various obligations they may have over the next few months as we slowly return to our workplaces.

Read More >> Business Immigration in the Era of COVID-19 Update: Presidential Proclamations, Travel Restrictions, Resumption of Premium Processing and the Reopening of USCIS