April 15, 2021
New York law requires paid time off for employees getting the COVID-19 vaccines
Recently enacted legislation (SB S2588A, Chapter 77) requires that New York employers provide up to four hours of paid leave to employees for time spent to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. If a COVID-19 vaccine requires two injections, the employee is entitled to two periods of paid leave of up to four hours each (which could be up to eight hours in total). The new law is effective March 12, 2021 through December 31, 2022.
The New York Department of Labor released a fact sheet on the new law.
Labor Law §196-C. Leave time for COVID-19 vaccination:
In addition, the law provides that no employer or its agent, or the officer or agent of any corporation, partnership, or limited liability company, or any other person, shall discharge, threaten, penalize, or in any other manner discriminate or retaliate against any employee because such employee has exercised his or her rights afforded under the new law, including, but not limited to, requesting or obtaining a leave of absence to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
Frequency asked questions
The Department also provided the following frequently asked questions.
Are all employers covered by this law?
For purposes of this law, employers include any person, corporation, limited liability company, or association employing any individual in any occupation, industry, trade, business or service. Public employers, including state and local government entities, are covered by a separate paid vaccine leave law under New York State Civil Service Law §159-c.
What is the maximum number of hours of paid leave that the employee is entitled to under this new law?
The maximum number of hours that an employee is entitled to paid leave under this law depends on the number of required COVID-19 vaccine injections. If a COVID-19 vaccine requires two injections, then the employee would be entitled to two periods of paid leave of up to four hours each (which could be up to 8 hours in total).
What is a "sufficient period of time" to be absent for a vaccine injection?
The law does not define this term; however, the paid leave period for a single injection cannot exceed four hours.
Can an employee use this paid leave to assist a relative or another person in getting a vaccine?
No. The paid leave granted by this law is only available to the employee for their own receipt of COVID-19 vaccine.
Do employees have to be paid at a certain rate during this paid leave period?
The law requires employees to be paid at their regular rate of pay.
Can employers substitute this paid leave with other existing leave options, such as paid sick leave?
The law does not permit employers to substitute other existing leave options available to the employee, including sick leave under Labor Law §196-B or leave provided by a collective bargaining agreement.
Can an employer require employees to provide notice before taking this paid leave period?
The law does not prevent an employer from requiring notice.
Can an employer require proof of vaccination to allow an employee to claim this paid leave period?
The law does not prevent an employer from requiring proof of vaccination. However, employers are encouraged to consider any confidentiality requirements applicable to such records prior to requesting proof of vaccination.
When does this new law become effective?
This law became effective on March 12, 2021 and will remain in effect until December 31, 2022.
What if an employee took time off to get vaccinated before this law went into effect?
This law does not create any retroactive benefit rights and only employees receiving vaccinations on or after March 12, 2021 are eligible for paid leave. However, nothing in the law prevents employers from voluntarily providing employees with such benefits retroactively.
How does this law affect leave provisions under collective bargaining agreements?
The rights afforded under this law may be waived in a collective bargaining agreement. To satisfy the requirements of this law, any agreement must specifically reference Labor Law §196-C.
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