On March 18, New York State enacted emergency legislation that immediately extends paid sick leave, New York Paid Family Leave, and disability benefits to New York employees who are unable work because they are quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19.
While headline grabbing, the legislation provides emergency job protection and paid sick leave to only those employees who are unable to work because they are subject to mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the state or local department of health or a governmental agency due to COVID-19. The benefits available to this limited group of employees fall into three categories as determined by the employer’s size and/or revenue:
- Employers with 100 or more employees, and public employers (regardless of number of employees): Employees must receive at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guaranteed job protection for the duration of the quarantine or isolation.
- Employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million: Employees must receive at least 5 days of paid sick leave, and guaranteed job protection. Thereafter, they are eligible for New York Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine or isolation, both of which are funded in New York through employee payroll deductions.
- Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million: Employers do not need to provide paid sick leave, but employees are still entitled to job protection for the duration of the quarantine order are eligible for New York Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine or isolation.
According to the New York State Department of Health’s March 6, 2020 Containment Guidance, the criteria for a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation are as follows:
- Required Mandatory Quarantine: A person (i) has been in close contact (6 feet or less) with someone who is positive, but is not displaying symptoms for COVID-19; or (ii) a person has traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea or Italy and is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.
- Required Mandatory Isolation: A person has tested positive for COVID-19, whether or not displaying symptoms for COVID-19.
- Precautionary Quarantine: A person (i) has traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea or Italy while COVID-19 was prevalent, but is not displaying symptoms; or (ii) is known to have had a proximate exposure (which is not defined) to a positive person but has not had direct contact with a positive person and is not displaying symptoms.
As most quarantine and isolation orders are for 14 days, there is no provision for payment of Paid Family Leave or disability benefits thereafter, unless the employee otherwise satisfies the statutory requirements for Paid Family Leave or disability leave. The legislation also eliminates any waiting period for these benefits, as well as for unemployment insurance claims related to COVID-19, and expands Paid Family Leave benefits if an employee needs to care for a dependent child subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to coronavirus
Notably, the provisions of the legislation do not apply where an employee is quarantined or isolated but is asymptomatic or has not yet been diagnosed with any medical condition and is physically able to work while under a mandatory or precautionary order, whether through remote access or other similar means. Further, the law exempts from the paid leave provision those employees who are quarantined or isolated and unable to work because they traveled to a country for which the CDC has issued a level 2 or 3 health travel notice for non-employment related reasons, if they were first provided a copy of the legislation’s limitation.
New York has established a website that provides basic information about this new paid leave provisions, frequently asked questions, forms, and notices.
New York employers should immediately advise employees of their right to this paid leave, and to assess and respond to employee absences that are related to quarantine and isolation orders, determine whether the employees are able to work, and, if not, provide the appropriate level of benefits and job protection.
For further information or questions about the information contained in this legal alert, please contact the authors, your McGuireWoods contact, or a member of the firm’s labor and employment team.
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