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A Temporary Reprieve for New Jersey Employers: Delay and Changes to the Amended New Jersey WARN Act

Posted on: July 21st, 2020

By: Stephanie Greenfield

Six months ago, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to pass a law obligating employers to provide severance to employees affected by a mass layoff.  On January 21, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy amended the existing New Jersey Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (NJ WARN Act). The new amendments, originally scheduled to go into effect on July 19, 2020, require that employers provide severance to each laid-off employee in the amount of one weeks’ pay for each year of employment. Previously under the NJ WARN Act, employers were only obligated to provide severance in connection with a covered mass layoff only if they failed to comply with the required 60-day notice. The new law will ultimately make it drastically more expensive for companies to conduct a large- scale reduction in force in New Jersey.

The significant changes to the NJ WARN Act include:

  • Expanded Notice Requirement: An employer that has 100 or more employees must provide at least 90 days’ notice before the first employee is discharged as part of a mass layoff, termination of operations, or transfer of operations. The existing NJ WARN Act requires only 60 days’ notice.
  • Mandatory Severance Requirement: In addition to notice, employers must provide discharged employees with “severance pay equal to one week of pay for each full year of employment.” Under the existing NJ WARN Act, an employer is only required to pay severance as a penalty if it fails to provide the required notice.
  • Lower Threshold for Mass Layoffs: The threshold for a “mass layoff” was lowered to 50 employees (even if they did not amount to 33% of the workforce). 
  • Expanded Counting and Coverage of Part-Time Employees: Employers must include part-time employees in both the 100-employee (for a covered employer) and 50-employee (for a termination of operations or a mass layoff) thresholds. Further, part-time employees are entitled to 90 days’ notice and severance just like full-time employees.
  • Expanded Statewide Definition of “Establishment”: The definition of “establishment” was expanded to include a group of all of the employer’s locations in New Jersey.

When the law was passed, the state and nation had no way of knowing that, in a matter of weeks they would be facing a national health crisis. Given the massive labor disturbance and resulting economic impact caused by COVID-19, New Jersey amended the NJ WARN Act once again, effective April 14, 2020. The NJ WARN Act now exempts from coverage any mass layoffs resulting from a natural disaster or national emergency (such as COVID-19), and delays the effective date of the amendments that were originally scheduled to take effect on July 19. These exclusions are retroactive to March 9, 2020, and, thereby, exclude any otherwise covered mass layoff from that date forward. This change permitted New Jersey employers to breathe easier, especially those implementing furloughs and layoffs due to the pandemic.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Stephanie Greenfield at [email protected].

CARES Section 18006 Encourages Schools to Retain Staff to the “Greatest Extent Practicable”

Posted on: April 27th, 2020

By: Tia Combs

As many schools around the country make the final decision to remain closed for the school year, it may be tempting to cut back on staff to save money for what is predicted to be a historic budget shortfall next year. However, the wisdom of that move may be lost when districts consider legislation recently passed by Congress.

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES” Act”). The lengthy piece of legislation gives financial benefits to seven primary groups: 1) individuals, 2) small businesses, 3) mid-size and larger companies, 4) hospitals and public health facilities, 5) children and families, through federal safety net programs, 6) state and local governments, and 7) providers of educational services.

Of particular interest to educational institutions is the Education Stabilization Fund. The fund provides over $30 billion dollars to educational institutions. Roughly $16.5 billion of the fund is allocated for distribution to elementary and secondary schools through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund and the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Distribution of these funds are contingent on the educational institutions fulfilling certain labor and employment related requirements. 

In particular, pursuant to Section 18006 of the Act states:

A local educational agency, State, institution of higher education, or other entity that receives funds under “Education Stabilization Fund,” shall to the greatest extent practicable, continue to pay its employees and contractors during the period of any disruptions or closures related to Coronavirus.

For K-12 educational institutions, this means that they must continue to pay employees and see that contractors (and their employees) are paid to the greatest extent possible and be prepared to explain any failure to do so.  Many state educational agencies have given advised local districts to do what they can to retain workers. For example, the Indiana Department of Education has advised districts: 

In the application for the CARES Act funding, the LEA must attest that it has been paying all employees and contractors during the closure or disruptions related to the coronavirus, or that it will begin doing so immediately. If LEAs are not able to attest to this fact, then it must provide a reasonable explanation beyond reasons related to cash flow (as tuition support has not been reduced) in order to be eligible for the CARES Act funding. IDOE considers the employees and contractors to include, but is not limited to, the following positions: teachers, administrators, counselors, social workers, nurses, paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, food service, and administrative staff.

In light of Section 18006, districts considering staffing reductions should make those decisions in consultation with legal counsel so that the district’s ability to receive these federal funds is preserved.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Tia Combs at [email protected].

Summary of Courts Operating Status in FMG Venues

Posted on: March 30th, 2020

FMG’s Coronavirus Task Force has produced this summary of court orders related to COVID-19 affecting the status of courts in each the jurisdictions served by our offices. This summary of each states includes their federal courts by district, applicable federal court of appeals, state trial courts, state court of appeal, and state supreme court. We will continue to regularly update this summary.

For information on the operating status of courts in following states serviced by FMG, click “here”.

California​

Connecticut

Florida

Georgia​

Indiana​

Kentucky​

Maine​

Maryland

Massachusetts​

New Hampshire​

New Jersey​

New York​

Ohio​

Rhode Island

Webinar series- Business Issues & Coronavirus

Posted on: March 18th, 2020

Choose your program and register here.

Top 10 Tips For Taking the State Bar

Posted on: July 1st, 2019

We’ve asked our attorneys for their advice for taking the bar.  Here are our top 10 tips.

  1. Start studying early and create a study schedule.

This can be difficult to do with law school, but if you have a free weekend and some time to catch up on a subject you think you have weaknesses in, this is a great opportunity for you to solidify your foundation for that subject. It doesn’t have to be a full-fledged study session. Read an outline, do some practice questions, anything!

  1. Treat studying like a full-time DAY job.

Don’t study into all hours of the night. Leave time for relaxation and leisure on the weekends so you don’t go crazy. Along the same lines, stay healthy. Get as much sleep as possible, exercise, and take time to prepare nutritious meals.

  1. Focus on what has worked well and been effective for you up to this point.

For most people, sticking to a tried-and-true study method will serve them well during bar prep instead of trying out all sorts of different “fad” study strategies, which may be more distracting than helpful.

Also, don’t be afraid to deviate from the bar company’s study plan if you know a different approach works better for you – trust yourself, be consistent in doing the work, and make honest evaluations about your progress as you go along to identify your strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Select a great prep course.

Barbri is pretty good. Their lectures are a bit long, but worth it. The essay practice seminars are EXTREMELY important. Do not neglect. AdaptiBar is another good one to use. Bar Secrets is helpful for essay questions.  Dr. Saccuzzo has REPEATEDLY successfully predicted the essay questions on the bar. The predictions are free. Bar Secrets is very helpful with essay questions.

  1. Learn to be REALLY hard on yourself.

Read sample answers. Learn to grade objectively so you can grade your own essays without bias.

  1. Practice your time management now. 

Do not go over on time for any essay or the performance test on test day.  Do not get bogged down on a handful of MBE questions.  It is not worth it.  Give each part of the exam your full attention.  Complete the task in front of you and then move on.  Don’t look ahead and don’t look back.  Just put one foot in front of the other and march to the finish line.

  1. Make logistical preparations to ensure your testing experience goes smoothly.

Visit the bar exam location before test day to get familiar with the area.  Put together your pencils, pens, and other testing materials.  Make plans for getting to the exam, packing lunch, etc.  Choose your lodging carefully!  Make sure you have a comfortable, quiet place to stay each nigh within walking distance, or with convenient and easy access to the exam location.  Pack a healthy lunch so you won’t have to fight the crowds or stress during break time.  Have ear plugs on hand.  Make sure you have a reliable laptop and don’t forget your charger!

  1. This is an issue spotting exam.

You can’t get points if you don’t find the issue.  When you are reviewing model answers pay as much attention to the issue outline as you do the rule statements and analysis paragraphs.  This will help you see what issues are grouped together so you don’t miss anything.

  1. Be sure to also give yourself time to unwind and rest at the end of each day after your studies.

Managing stress levels and avoiding burnout are as critical as learning the material itself, and allowing yourself sufficient rest also helps with retaining all the material you’ve been studying.

  1. Just push through and stay positive!