New York COVID-19 Sick Leave: Implications for Employers

Similar to other states, New York has taken action to respond to employment issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. New York recently passed a law for sick leave relief measures for employees who cannot work remotely and are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by the State of New York, the department of health, local board of health or any governmental entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19.

The law provides for either paid or unpaid sick leave (depending on the size and income of the employer) plus access to state-run disability or paid family leave benefits during unpaid leave. For employers that have

• 10 or fewer employees and less than a $1 million net income, employees are entitled to unpaid leave during a quarantine or isolation order and through the termination of such order.

• 11-99 employees, or have 10 or fewer employees but with $1+ million net income, employees are entitled to five days of paid sick leave, but any remaining time on the quarantine or isolation order would be unpaid.

• 100 or more employees, employees are entitled to 14 days paid sick leave, but any remaining time on the quarantine or isolation order would be unpaid.

The sick leave includes job restoration rights along with antidiscrimination and anti-retaliation protections for employees. Note that local health authorities issue these mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation to specific people. This law does not affect workers who have not been ordered to quarantine or isolate by a government entity authorized to issue such order. At this time, mandatory quarantine or isolation orders are limited to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have had close contact (within six feet) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Further, the benefits under the law specifically do not apply to those employees who are physically able to work while under an order of quarantine or isolation, whether through remote access or other similar means.

Travel Quarantine Orders

Some local health authorities are entering into precautionary isolation agreements with people who are not displaying symptoms but who have traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea or Italy while COVID-19 was prevalent. However, employees who engaged in nonbusiness, personal travel to these countries and then became quarantined as a result are not entitled to the benefits of the law.

Coordination With Other Laws

The New York law is coordinated with benefits under federal law, and only the excess over any federal benefit is payable to employees. The New York COVID-19 sick leave entitlement is in addition to any already previously existing sick leave benefits available to employees.

We recognize that in this fast-moving environment, there will likely be further guidance and clarification regarding these orders. We are available to answer any questions you may have now or as the situation evolves. If you have any questions about the New York COVID-19 sick leave law, or would like to discuss how these orders apply to your company in particular circumstances, please contact the Sidley lawyer with whom you usually work or a member of our Employment Team. We also understand that the Governor of New York will be issuing an order later today about the shutdown of nonessential business, and we will issue a client alert as more information is available.

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