January 25, 2021

Volume XI, Number 25


January 25, 2021

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Latest Update: New Jersey & New York Governors Issue New, Expansive COVID-19 Executive Orders

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo each recently issued new, sweeping executive orders that have effectively forced both states’ non-essential businesses to grind to a halt in an effort to stem the spread of pandemic COVID-19. Below, we summarize key components of each state’s newly-issued executive orders, which alter or expand upon previous orders from last week discussed in our March 20 alert.

New Jersey’s Executive Order

Over the weekend, Governor Murphy issued an executive order closing to the public non-essential retail businesses, requiring businesses to employ “social-distancing” best practices, and invalidating any county or municipal restriction that in any way conflicts with that order. Through his order, Governor Murphy further directed New Jersey residents to stay at home until further notice with exceptions for certain activities, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities. Virtually all group social events and public outings have been cancelled, unless granted a specific exemption, including conferences, large gatherings, meetings, parties or festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, and weddings.

While all businesses may continue on-line operations, non-essential retail businesses must close brick-and-mortar operations to the public.

New Jersey has established a COVID-19 FAQ website to provide the latest updates and information on the pandemic. It includes examples of what essential retail businesses are. Pursuant to same, “To the extent a business or non-profit has employees that cannot perform their functions via telework or work-from-home arrangements, the business or non-profit should make best efforts to reduce staff on site to the minimal number necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue.” The website provides the following examples, among others, of employees who need to be present at their worksite: cashiers, store clerks, warehouse workers, janitorial and custodial staff, and certain administrative staff.

New York’s Executive Order

On March 20, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order which increased prior workforce reduction mandates for non-essential businesses to 100%. As of now, this order remains in effect through April 19.

The new order specifies that failure by an employer to comply with its provisions constitutes a violation of the state’s Public Health Law, which provides for civil penalties of up to $2,000 per violation ($5,000 for repeat offenders) and injunctive relief. Workers are encouraged by the Attorney General’s office to file complaints with New York’s Labor Bureau if they believe their employer is not complying with the governor’s directives.


Given the gravity of the Executive Orders of Governors Murphy and Cuomo, employers should seek the advice of counsel immediately to determine whether they are an essential business and, even if they are, commence efforts, to the extent possible, to reduce their in-person workforces to the bare minimum required to operate. For employees who are permitted under these orders to travel into work in either New Jersey or New York, it may be useful for employers to send them a letter explaining the reasons why they are expected to report, in the event local law enforcement authorities question why they are travelling to work. With the COVID-19 landscape continuing to evolve rapidly, employers are encouraged to reach out to legal counsel regarding how they can navigate challenging regulatory compliance questions concerning these and other emergency mandates.

© Copyright 2020 Sills Cummis & Gross P.C.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 84



About this Author

Grace Byrd Employment Attorney Sills Cummis Law Firm
Of Counsel

Grace A. Byrd is Of Counsel to the Sills Cummis & Gross Employment and Labor Practice Group.

Ms. Byrd has worked with business owners, executives and other professionals to develop and execute well–thought–out and practical legal strategies to effectively achieve their litigation and business goals.  She counsels with an eye towards helping clients meet their business objectives while remaining legally compliant.

She has represented corporate clients from a range of industries, including financial services, health...

Jill Turner Lever Employment Lawyer Sills Cummis Gross Law Firm
Of Counsel

Jill Turner Lever practices in all aspects of employment law.  She advises clients on a wide range of employment law issues including day-to-day advice and counsel on compliance with federal, state and local employment laws.  Ms. Lever drafts employment agreements, separation agreements, employee handbooks and human resources policies.  She provides advice on handling complaints of sexual and other forms of workplace harassment.  

David I. Rosen, Sills Cummis Gross, Wrongful Dismissal Lawyer, Labor Arbitration Attorney

David I. Rosen has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management clients since 1977. He handles employment litigation in the federal and state courts, before administrative agencies and through arbitration and mediation, and has broad experience with wrongful dismissal and employment discrimination claims, having successfully defended employers following jury and bench trials. His litigation experience extends to the enforcement and defense of restrictive covenants, NLRB unfair labor practice trials and appellate advocacy. Mr. Rosen also represents employers in labor...

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