The New York Department of Labor (“NYDOL”) has released guidance on the New York State COVID-19 Vaccine Paid Leave Law, which went into effect on March 12, 2021. The guidance comes in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) document that resolves a number of open questions and unclear issues for employers.
As we previously reported, the new COVID-19 Vaccine Paid Leave Law requires New York employers to provide employees with a paid leave of absence for a sufficient period of time, not to exceed 4 hours, per injection, to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Employees must be compensated at their regular rate of pay for COVID-19 vaccine leave, which takes priority over any other leave to which employees may be entitled, including, but not limited to, paid sick leave under the New York State Paid Sick Leave Law.
The FAQs document confirms that if a vaccine requires two injections, the employee could take paid leave twice. Each time could be for up to 4 hours, for a total of 8 hours over the two shots. Significantly, the FAQs provide that benefits are not retroactive and only employees receiving vaccinations on or after March 12, 2021 are eligible for paid leave under the new law. However, the FAQs note that employers can choose to voluntarily provide COVID-19 vaccine paid leave to employees for covered absences before March 12th.
Further, the FAQs provide that the law does not prevent an employer from requiring notice before taking COVID-19 vaccine paid leave. Nor does the law prevent an employer from requiring proof of vaccination to allow employees to claim COVID-19 vaccine paid leave. However, employers are encouraged to consider any confidentiality requirements applicable to such records prior to requesting proof of vaccination.
In addition, the NYDOL acknowledges that the leave is only available for the employee to get vaccinated. There is no leave mandate to permit an employee to assist anyone else, such as a family member, in obtaining a vaccination.
The FAQs provide welcome clarification on many questions employers have been asking. Employers should review the FAQs document in its entirety which can be found here: https://dol.ny.gov/system/files/documents/2021/03/cd6.pdf
In light of the recent guidance, employers should implement or update COVID-19 vaccine paid leave policies to ensure compliance with the new law and correlating FAQs. Please reach out to ALG should you need assistance with your policy or for solutions and recommendations on addressing compliance with the new law.