Big Apple Shrinks

Shelter in Place Order – New York’s Approach

Written by Susan Kohn Ross

On Friday, Governor Cuomo issued New York’s order. While not referring to “shelter in place”, it has the same impact. To be accurate, the full title is “Guidance for Determining Whether A Business Enterprise is Subject To A Workforce Reduction Under Executive Order 202.6.” Building on an existing executive order to reduce the workforce at each business/work location by 75%, the new order defines essential businesses as follows, and requires that other, non-essential businesses “reduce the in-person workforce at each business/work location by 100% from pre-state of emergency declaration employment levels…” Continue reading “Big Apple Shrinks”

Big Apple, Small Business

New York City Helps Small Businesses Survive

Written by Arina Shulga

With the recent “social distancing” measures that include the closure of schools, bars and restaurants, gyms, libraries, Broadway theaters, large retailers, and other businesses, many companies operating in New York City are being seriously impacted.  Although some bigger companies may survive this economic crisis, small businesses likely face a grim future. Continue reading “Big Apple, Small Business”

Volatility Provides Opportunity

Estate Planning Opportunities in a Volatile, Low Interest Rate Environment

Written by Jeffrey Eisen, Autumn Ronda and Joyce Feuille 

The recent dramatic decline in the value of the stock market, and overall economic volatility, has left us all worried about our financial health, not to mention the COVID-19 virus creating fears regarding our general health.  In these uncertain times, there are steps to take for those who are in a position to transfer wealth to future generations now, as well as steps to take even if you do not wish to transfer wealth currently.

First, for everyone, if you are spending more time at home than ever, use some of it to review your basic estate plan to make sure it is up to date, and reflects your current desires.

Second, if you have been procrastinating in making lifetime gifts to your heirs while we have a temporarily generous estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax exemption now may be the time to pull the trigger.

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Governor Newsom Suspends Key Provisions of Cal-WARN

Written by Brian Ragen and Daniel Innamorati 

On March 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order EO N-31-20 suspending key provisions of the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (“Cal-WARN”) in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why This Matters

The Executive Order effectively eliminates Cal-WARN’s requirement that employers provide 60 days’ notice for mass layoffs, relocations and cessations of business related to COVID-19.  These events have become widespread as business shut their doors for public health reasons, and compliance has been rendered virtually impossible in many instances.

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COVID-19 Client Communication

As the COVID-19 crisis rapidly evolves, the health and safety of our employees, clients and our communities remain our highest priority. We wanted to share with you what we are doing as a firm. We have instructed attorneys and staff in all of our offices to work remotely (with rare exception for certain critical functions). This is happening seamlessly as part of our business continuity plan. We have been working round-the-clock in counseling clients on today’s mission-critical issues, from employment to immigration to tax, as it relates to the outbreak of COVID-19. Like you, we are constantly monitoring the situation, and we will provide additional updates in the coming days and weeks as appropriate. In the meantime, we want you to know that our thoughts are with you and your families, and we hope that you remain healthy and safe.

In an effort to support you during these uncertain times, we have assembled a firm-wide COVID-19 response team from all of our practice areas. For the coming weeks, and starting today in this alert, we intend to send a consolidated communication alert on a regular basis that touches on breaking news and relevant items that could affect you or your business across a range of topics. If there is anything else that we can do to help you during this challenging time, please do not hesitate in reaching out.

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Federal Tax Payments May Be Delayed 90 Days

Written by David Wheeler Newman Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that individual taxpayers may defer payment of tax bills up to $1 million for ninety days, interest and penalty free, as part of a coronavirus stimulus bill announced by the administration on March 17. According to the Secretary, the $1 million limit is intended to provide relief to small businesses and pass-through entities like partnerships … Continue reading Federal Tax Payments May Be Delayed 90 Days

Telecommuting? Buckle Up

Are Your Employees Telecommuting Now? COVID-19 and Cybersecurity Concerns for Businesses

Written by Jeremy Mittman and Susan Kohn Ross

A topic of immediate concern to businesses that has not received a great deal of attention (but should) is cybersecurity. There are unscrupulous people out there who will try to take advantage of the situation! This is especially worrisome with the increased usage of telecommuting to facilitate business continuity.

Within the Dept. of Homeland Security sits the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency or CISA which is “responsible for protecting the Nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber threats.” CISA, through its National Cyber Awareness System, released Defending Against COVID-19 Cyber Scams, see here for the full text.  In short, beware of emails with malicious attachments and hyperlinks. Also be careful about social media pleas, texts and calls having to do with COVID-19.

The NCAS recommends:

Continue reading “Telecommuting? Buckle Up”

Best Practices for Maintaining Employee Privacy Regarding COVID-19

Written by Jeremy Mittman and Susan Kohn Ross

The situation surrounding COVID-19 is, to the say the least, fluid and scary. The ultimate outcome of the disruption to the business community is also unclear. There are nonetheless a couple of topics we can talk about right now with some degree of certainty on which businesses may want to focus as we all struggle to deal with the very human toll of this pandemic. One is employee privacy and is addressed in this edition. The cybersecurity topics worthy of immediate attention will be covered in a subsequent blog post.

We start here with the confidentiality obligation of employers regarding information about the health of their employees. If someone on your staff becomes infected, as a general proposition, as the employer, you may not share that information with other employees. The Centers for Disease Control published an Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, and stated: “If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Since COVID-19 has spread to many different countries, the privacy laws in those countries also need to be considered. For example, the European privacy law – the GDPR – addresses privacy around health data, plus local public health authorities in those countries will have their own protocols to follow.

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Three New Coronavirus Developments for Employers

Coronavirus 2019-nCOV medical still life concept
Photo credit: istock.com/rabbitti

Written by Jeremy Mittman and Stephen Franz

There are several new developments at the federal and state level regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its impact on California employers and workers.  The United States House of Representatives passed the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” (H.R. 6201), tentatively creating new paid leave obligations related to the coronavirus for many employers.  Moreover, two California government agencies have issued important new guidance on coronavirus and its impact on employers and workers:  The California Labor Commissioner’s Office issued an FAQ Memo and the California Employment Development Department (EDD) also issued relevant guidance.

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COVID-19 and the Trade Community

COVID19, Coronavirus disease, corona virus, Concept Picture about epidemic in the World
Photo Credit: istock.com/AlxeyPnferov

By Susan Kohn Ross

There are a bunch of other things going on when it comes to international trade, but the most concerning topic right now is the coronavirus or COVID-19. From a purely business continuity perspective, we are receiving lots of inquiries around the following question: “Can we get out of our contracts by invoking the force majeure clauses?” Such a clause allows parties to cancel contracts when events occur which are both beyond their control but also totally unexpected. A typical illustration would be an “Act of God.” First, make sure your contract includes a force majeure clause, because if not, that could present a significant uphill and costly battle. Given the widespread losses which are likely to result, it is reasonable to anticipate companies of any size will, so to speak, “stick to their guns” in trying to “spread the pain.”

Assuming such a clause is present in your contract, what does it say? An example of one recently presented includes among its examples: “… strikes, riots, floods, storms, earthquakes, fires, power failures, natural disasters, pandemics, insurrection, acts of God, or for any cause beyond the control of” the named party. Is that language sufficient to permit cancellation under the current circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak? Probably so, since it mentions pandemics and the World Health Organization has labeled the outbreak as such, but would this language have been broad enough to cover the situation a month ago? Maybe not. Continue reading “COVID-19 and the Trade Community”