New York Passes COVID-19 Relief for Affected Employees

Anthony A. Mingione

On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill providing paid sick leave and job protections for employees in New York who are unable to work due to coronavirus COVID-19. The new law prohibits employers from terminating or penalizing employees who are absent from work while the government is recommending or mandating that people stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The specifics of the leave available to employees will vary depending on the size and net income of the employer, although regardless of employer size, all employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 will be entitled to job protection during their absences.

      • Businesses with at least 100 employees must provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave during any mandatory or precautionary order of COVID-19 quarantine or isolation.
      • Businesses with between 11 and 99 employees (or with 10 or fewer employees but more than one million dollars in net income) must provide five days of paid sick leave. Once that is exhausted, those employers must provide their workers with access to short-term disability benefits and paid family leave for the period of quarantine/isolation.
      • Finally, employers with 10 or fewer employees and less than one million dollars in net income are not obligated to provide paid leave but must give their workers access to short-term disability benefits and paid family leave for the period of quarantine/isolation.

This new law also permits the use of New York Paid Family Leave for one’s own serious health condition—typically uses of New York Family Leave are limited to bonding with a newly born, adopted, or fostered child; caring for a family member with a serious health condition; or assisting loved ones when a qualifying family member is deployed abroad on active military duty.

The new law also provides that if a business closes because of COVID-19, affected employees can immediately file for unemployment insurance benefits. Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo had advocated for a more wide-ranging law that would have remained in effect after the COVID-19 pandemic; but ultimately it was determined that a compromise package was more likely to be enacted quickly. Notably omitted from the coverage of this measure are New York’s independent contractors, although Governor Cuomo indicated a desire to include independent contractor protection in comprehensive leave legislation he hopes to still get passed this year.

The Governor indicated that the State will continue to work on a broader sick leave policy in 2020, but stated that this legislation will “provide immediate relief to working New Yorkers whose lives are being turned upside down by COVID-19.” He added, “No one should have to make the impossible choice between losing their job or providing for their family and going to work, especially during this pandemic.”

The New York law has several key differences from the recent federal legislation. The New York law will go into effect immediately, whereas the federal law has a 15-day waiting period (until April 2, 2020). New York employers will need to comply with the law regardless of size, although the manner of compliance will differ, while the federal law applies only to employers with 500 or fewer employees and governmental entities.

For the latest updates, please visit Blank Rome’s Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) Task Force page.

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