By Joseph S. Brown, Esq.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just signed a bill that provides private and public sector employees with up to four hours of excused leave per injection of the COVID-19 vaccine that will not be charged against any other leave the employee has earned or accrued. The new law becomes effectively immediately, March 12, 2021, and will expire on December 31, 2022.
The New Law
As to private employers, the law amends New York Labor Law to add § 196-c which generally provides as follows:
- All employers – regardless of size or industry – are required to provide employees with “a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours” per vaccine dose, to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
- This time must be paid at the employee’s “regular rate of pay” for the entire leave period.
- Employers cannot deduct the time from any other benefit time, such as New York State’s Paid Sick Leave or New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law.
- Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees who request or take a leave of absence to be vaccinated for COVID-19, or who otherwise exercise their rights under this law.
For public employers, this requirement is codified in Civil Service Law § 159-c.
An employer may grant employees a greater number of hours pursuant to a collectively bargained agreement or as otherwise authorized by the employer, but the law may only be waived by a collective bargaining agreement that explicitly references the new provision of New York Labor Law.
New York State’s Department of Labor – as it has with other COVID-related leave laws – may issue guidance to address open questions such as whether employees can use this paid leave for recovery from any side effects from the COVID-19 vaccination, what documentation an employer can request as proof of vaccination, and how much control employers have in scheduling their vaccine appointments. In the meantime, New York employers should modify their vaccination policies and COVID-19 leave policies to ensure compliance with the new law.
Hurwitz & Fine continues to monitor and analyze these updates and advise employers on matters related to the coronavirus outbreak. Please contact any member of the firm’s Labor & Employment team for guidance on these evolving issues at 716-849-8900, by e-mail, or visiting our website at www.hurwitzfine.com.
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Joseph S. Brown – [email protected]
Ann E. Evanko – [email protected]
Katherine L. Wood – [email protected]