NY Dept. of Labor Issues New Guidance on Paid COVID-19 Leave

On January 20, 2021, the New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) issued new Guidance for employers regarding the NYS COVID-19 Sick Leave Law enacted in March 2020. With this recent change, employers and employees alike need to be aware of their revised obligations and rights.

Employees are eligible to receive up to three rounds of paid COVID-19 leave

These scenarios play out in several ways, and there are limitations. Here is a general overview of the DOL’s new Guidance for applying the state mandate.

  • Employees in New York may assert their right to paid COVID-19 leave up to three times as long as the second and third instances are due to the employee’s positive test for COVID-19.
  • Employees who return to work after a mandatory isolation or quarantine period are not required to be tested before returning to work unless they work in a nursing home.
  • If an employee takes leave due to a mandatory quarantine or isolation, then returns to work and later tests positive for COVID-19 – then that employee shall not report to work following the positive test and may take another period of leave. The employee does not need to provide proof of a government quarantine or isolation order. The only proof required is a positive result.
  • If an employee takes COVID-19 leave and, at the conclusion of the leave but prior to returning to work, they test positive for COVID-19, the employee must not return to work. They are then entitled to another period of COVID-19 leave. Again, this employee must only provide proof of the positive test.
  • When an employer (rather than a quarantine order) prohibits an employee from reporting to work due to possible exposure to COVID-19, the employer is required to pay the employee their regular rate of pay until the employer allows them to return or that employee becomes subject to a quarantine or isolation order. At that point, the Guidance states that the employee will receive sick leave under New York’s COVID-19 Sick Leave Law.
  • No employee may qualify for sick leave under New York’s COVID-19 Sick Leave Law for more than three orders of isolation or quarantine.

Updated Compensation Guidance

When employees take COVID-19 sick leave, the amount of compensation available to the employee varies based on the size and revenue of the employer.

  • If there were ten or fewer employees as of January 1, 2020, and the employer netted less than $1 Million in income in 2019, then the employee’s sick leave will be unpaid. In this case, employees may apply for disability benefits.
  • If there were ten or fewer employees and a net income of at least $1 Million, then the employee will receive five days of paid sick leave, with the remainder of the quarantine being unpaid. Disability benefits are also an option for the employee at the end of the five days.
  • Employers with 11-99 employees must provide at least five days of paid sick leave. Employees are then free to apply for disability benefits.
  • Employers with at least 100 employees and all public employers must provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave.

Legal Challenges to the COVID-19 Leave Guidance Expected

The Guidance is very detailed and provides strong support for employees. However, if you feel that your rights under this law and guidance are being violated, are strongly encouraged to consult an experienced employment attorney.

This pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime, causing a spike in legal actions sparked by compensation disputes, disciplinary actions, and even wrongful termination. Employees need to stay informed about changes in the law enacted for their benefit and then take appropriate action when those laws are violated. The Noble Law can be that advocate for you.

If you have questions about the recently released New York Guidance, please call The Noble Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our employment law attorneys. The Noble Law provides trusted counsel for workplace disputes. We listen. We hear you. We understand.

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