Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On April 19, 2020, the New York City Commissioner for Health and Mental Hygiene signed an Order to compel persons who self-identify as requiring mandatory isolation due to COVID-19 to isolate in their home or another appropriate location. The Order enables these individuals to qualify for immediate paid time off under the New York State’s COVID-19 Quarantine/Isolation Order Law (the “Law”). The Commissioner has released a series of Frequently Asked Questions, dated April 23, 2020, concerning the Order.
The Purpose of the Order
According to the Commissioner, the purpose of the Order is to create a process for New York City residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, to obtain the documentation necessary to claim COVID-19-specific paid sick leave benefits from their employer under the Law.
Applicability of the Order
According to the Order and its corresponding FAQs, the Order applies to employees requesting COVID-19-specific paid sick leave from their employer under the Law, who currently or previously met the qualifications for mandatory isolation in connection with COVID-19. The Order is applicable to those persons who: (a) have tested positive for COVID-19; (b) have symptoms of COVID-19 and were in contact with someone who tested positive; or, (c) meet another qualification for mandatory isolation by the New York City Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, the Order does not apply to an employee who is not sick but must quarantine because they have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 or a person who is experiencing or who has recently experienced symptoms of COVID-19. Such employees should contact the New York City Department of Health to request an individual quarantine order to obtain COVID-19 paid sick leave under the Law.
Appendices to the Order
For the Order to be effective, the employee must complete and sign one of three appendices attached to the Order. Appendix A applies to employees who are healthcare personnel. Appendix B applies to employees who are not healthcare workers but who are otherwise essential employees under the guidance published by the Empire State Development Corporation. Appendix C applies to employees who are non-essential employees.
Each Appendix requires the employee seeking COVID-19 paid sick leave under the Law to affirm that the statements made in the Appendix concerning the employee’s health status are true and accurate to the employee’s knowledge, and the employee must submit the applicable Appendix to their employer along with additional documentation, including test results or evidence of a medical consultation, showing the employee’s isolation was necessary. For healthcare employees completing Appendix A, the Order states that it does not preclude a hospital or other healthcare provider from requiring its employees to provide additional documentation or information that confirms the need for the isolation to its office of occupational health services, or as otherwise directed.
With the Commissioner’s April 19th Order, New York City has joined many counties in New York State looking to ease the burdens on their local departments of health that are likely overwhelmed with requests for mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation. Putnam County, Westchester County, Dutchess County, Erie County, Orange County, and Rockland County, for instance, have previously issued standing orders or similar orders of isolation designed to apply en masse to residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. Nassau County and Suffolk County created online portals through which residents may request an order (Nassau) or a letter (Suffolk) from their respective local department of health to substantiate a need for quarantine or isolation.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers are encouraged to subscribe to updates from their local department of health and prepare for employee inquiries about their rights under New York State law. As federal, state, and local responses to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are ever-changing and evolving, employers are likewise encouraged to contact their employment counsel regarding any inquiries about documentation that purport to be an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation, as well as regarding employers’ obligations to provide COVID-19-specific paid sick leave to employees.