As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers have symptoms or a diagnosis of COVID-19, are caring for loved ones sick or symptomatic with COVID-19, or are in isolation or quarantine because of exposure to an infected person or travel to specified states or countries. If you are an employee in New York, do you qualify for paid or sick leave due to COVID-19? Both the federal government and New York State have passed laws that have expanded employees’ ability to take protected workplace leave due to COVID-19. In addition, employees subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) may be entitled to additional sick or paid leave under their CBA.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State already had in place a Paid Family Leave law. After the pandemic, New York passed a new law that provides for sick leave, paid family leave, and disability benefits to employees specifically affected by COVID-19 orders of quarantine or isolation. Currently, however, there is very little guidance on who qualifies as being under an order of quarantine or isolation. The law offers job protection to employees who qualify for such benefits, requiring employers to restore such employees returning to work to their prior position, and with the same pay and terms and conditions of employment. The law also prohibits employers from firing, threatening, penalizing or otherwise discriminating or retaliating against employees for taking protected leave.
Sick leave Employees who need to take leave because they are subject to Covid-19 orders of quarantine or isolation are entitled to job-protected leave as of January 1, 2020, the length and terms of which depend on the employer’s size:
· Employers with 10 or fewer employees and with net income more than $1 million: at least 5 days of paid sick leave, plus unpaid leave until isolation/quarantine order expires. After paid leave has run out, affected employees also are eligible for family leave and disability benefits.
· Employers with 10 or fewer employees and with net income of $1 million or less: unpaid sick leave until isolation/quarantine order expires; employees are eligible for family leave and disability benefits.
· Employers with between 11 and 99 employees: at least 5 days of paid sick leave, plus unpaid leave until isolation/quarantine order expires. Once paid leave has run out, affected employees also are eligible for family leave and disability benefits.
· Employers with 100+ employees/Public employers of any size: at least 14 days of paid sick leave.
The law further allows employees using otherwise unpaid leave under the law to use NYS’s Paid Family Leave and disability benefits, if they qualify. The law also expands who qualifies for paid family leave and disability benefits.
Paid Family Leave The law defines family leave as leave from work taken by an employee who is subjected to quarantine or to provide care for the employee’s minor dependent child who is subject to quarantine. Eligible employees may collect up to $840.70 each week.
Disability Benefits Disability is defined under the new law as an employee’s inability to perform the regular duties of his/her employment or any other employment that may be offered by the employer. The maximum weekly disability benefit amount that an employee can collect is the difference between the $840.70 paid family leave maximum and the employee’s total average weekly wage, for up to a maximum of $2,043.92 a week.
Employees subject to quarantine appear to be eligible to receive disability and family leave benefits at the same time. Both sets of benefits can be collected on the first full day of an unpaid period of quarantine. However, under the new NY law, an employee must exhaust paid sick leave before qualifying for disability benefits. Finally, it appears that the leave that employers must provide under this law is in addition to, and does not replace, sick leave that an employee may have accrued.