From Coronavirus Relief Legislation and Covid-Related Sick Leave to Cannabis Legalization – Here’s What You Need to Know

Spring has arrived in the Tri-State area and with it have come some important changes for employers. We’ve highlighted some of the most significant issues for employers to know right now.


New coronavirus relief legislation has been signed into law. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included a stimulus package, expanded unemployment insurance benefits, and an extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) tax credits available to employers. As we have detailed in previous alerts, the FFCRA provides a dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit to employers who provide coronavirus-related leaves to their employees.

The mandate of this law expired on December 31, 2020, but employers can voluntarily elect to provide the leave through September 30, 2021.

Notably, the law reset employees’ eligibility for leave under the FFCRA effective as of April 1, 2021. If an employee had previously taken FFCRA-covered leave before that date, they will be eligible for additional FFCRA leave after that date if the employer opts to provide it. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan Act added “vaccine leave” as a reimbursable reason to take leave under the FFCRA, including time to recover from any vaccine-related illness or injury.


New York State has released additional guidance about its Covid-related sick leave law.

An employee may be paid for up to three periods of Covid-related isolation of either 5 or 14 days, depending on employer size. The second and third period must be supported by a positive Covid test result. This means that an employee who has already taken a leave for Covid isolation and later tests positive can receive additional paid leave.

New York also has mandated that employers provide paid leave for employees to receive Covid vaccinations.

All New York employers – regardless of size – must provide employees with up to four hours of paid leave per injection. This leave is paid at the employee’s regular rate and cannot be subtracted from other leaves to which an employee is entitled, such as vacation time or sick leave. This law and its requirements will expire on December 31, 2022.


New Jersey lawmakers passed legislation relating to the state’s cannabis legalization, which voters approved during November’s election. This legislation creates the regulatory framework for recreational cannabis use and includes some employment protections for adult users of cannabis.

While we wait for regulations from the State’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission to be issued, we do have some guidance about what employers can expect.

  • Importantly, employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against an employee solely on the basis of the employee’s recreational cannabis usage outside of work.
  • Employers will still be able to drug test prospective employees and current employees in some situations, including in the event of a workplace accident. However, employers will not be able to rely solely on a positive test result in determining appropriate action.
  • Testing must include a “scientifically reliable” testing method, such as blood, urine, or saliva, and a physical evaluation to determine an individual’s state of impairment.
  • Additionally, employers are still able to maintain drug-free workplaces and prohibit intoxication or the possession or use of cannabis during working hours.

QUESTIONS? If you have questions or concerns regarding FFCRA, Covid-related sick leave, cannabis legalization in New Jersey, or any other employment law related questions, please contact Heather Adelman or Maralee Sanders.