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.
Updated March 23, 2021: The state has issued an FAQ addressing some of the common questions about paid COVID-19 vaccine leave.
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On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation providing all public and private employees in New York up to four hours of paid leave per vaccine injection to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine.
The new law, which adds a new Section 159-c to the New York Civil Service Law and a new Section 196-c to the New York Labor Law, provides that the paid COVID-19 vaccination leave may not be charged against any other leave that the employee is entitled to, such as any paid sick leave or any leave provided under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The law, which expires by its terms on December 31, 2022, requires that employers provide a “sufficient period of time,” up to four hours, to be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay, for each COVID-19 vaccine injection.
All employers that are parties to a CBA may provide a greater number of paid hours to be vaccinated, and private employers may waive the requirements of this law through the terms of a CBA, provided the agreement’s language expressly waives the law.
The law prohibits employers from discriminating against or retaliating against any employee who takes or requests paid COVID-19 vaccination leave, or otherwise exercises their rights under the law.
Like other recently enacted New York employee leave laws, the law provides little in the way of guidance regarding implementation, and hence leaves many unanswered questions, such as how much advance notice an employee must provide an employer in order to take leave, what proof of vaccination may be requested of an employee, and whether the law applies to any future vaccination “boosters” if any are necessary. We anticipate that New York State may issue guidance or FAQs to answer some of these issues.
Employers are encouraged to consult with counsel to work through questions that may arise, update existing policies, and prepare supervisory employees on how to handle requests for paid COVID-19 vaccination leave.
This is the third leave law New York has passed in the past 12 months. In March 2020, New York passed the COVID-19 paid sick leave law, requiring all New York employers to provide paid quarantine or isolation leave to employees who 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 government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19. And in April 2020, New York passed a statewide paid sick leave law that requires employers to provide paid or unpaid sick leave that can be used for purposes related to the health and well-being of an employee or their family members.