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March 19, 2020

Governor Cuomo Signs Executive Order Requiring Employers to Reduce in-Person Workforces by 50 Percent

In further response to the spread of COVID-19 in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on March 18requiring all businesses and not-for-profits to utilize telecommuting and work-from-home procedures and otherwise reduce in-person workforces by 50 percent. 

The workforce reduction provisions set forth in the executive order are effective on March 20 at 8:00 p.m. through April 17 and provide as follows:

  • All NYS businesses and not-for-profits will safely utilize, to the maximum extent possible, telecommuting or work-from-home procedures.  
  • Each employer will reduce the in-person workforce at any work locations by 50 percent. This is a change from earlier information provided by the state indicating that workforce reductions would only apply to “in-office employees.”.  
  • “Essential” business entities are exempt from the directives set forth in the executive order. Specifically, any essential business or entity providing essential services or functions will not be subject to the in-person workforce restrictions, including the following essential entities:
    • Health care operations, including research and laboratory services
    • Infrastructure, including utilities, telecommunication, airports, and transportation infrastructure
    • Manufacturing, including food processing and pharmaceuticals
    • Retail, including grocery stores and pharmacies
    • Services, including trash collection, mail, and shipping services
    • News media
    • Banks and related financial institutions
    • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations
    • Construction
    • Vendors of essential services needed to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses
    • Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care, and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public

Any business not specifically identified in the executive order may request an opinion from the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) asking for the  business to be considered essential, and that it is in the best interest of the s

tate to have the workforce continue at full capacity on-site. The ESDC will issue guidance regarding which businesses are determined to be essential no later than 5:00 p.m. today

Legal issues regarding this executive order and other state responses to COVID-19 affecting employment will be discussed in detail during Barclay Damon’s free “NYS’s COVID-19 Sick Leave Act and Mandatory Workforce Reductions” webinar on Monday, March 23at 10:00 a.m. 

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Chris Harrigan, partner, at charrigan@barclaydamon.com or another member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Area.

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