New York Employees Get Paid COVID-19 Vaccination Leave

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Beginning March 12, 2021, New York employers must give employees time off to be vaccinated against COVID-19. New laws gives all employees in all workplaces across New YorkState the right to paid COVID-19 vaccination leave of up to 4 hours per injection. Public sector (government) employees gain this new leave through the state’s Civil Service Law. The state’s Labor Law now provides it to private sector (non-government) employees.

Covered Employees

The new laws combine to provide paid COVID-19 vaccination leave to all employees, regardless of employer size or industry.

Amount of Leave

Employees may take up to 4 hours off per vaccine injection. Currently, some vaccines require two injections spaced multiple weeks apart. Another is completed with a single shot.

The laws do not specifically address the possibility of future vaccinations, such as booster shots or re-vaccination. As written, it’s possible that any such shots designed to innoculate someone against COVID-19 would create a paid leave entitlement.

Paid Leave

Employers must pay employees their “regular rate of pay” for the time off. They cannot deduct the time from any other benefit time, including New York State’s mandated sick leave.

Retaliation

Employers may not take any adverse employment actions against an employee for exercising their rights to take paid COVID-19 vaccination leave.

Effective Dates

The new requirements are in place as of March 12, 2021, but will expire December 31, 2022.

Open Questions

This legislation is silent on several critical details.

It does not clarify whether or how employees must document that they actually received the vaccine. It also doesn’t address whether employers have any control over when their employees take the time off (perhaps suggesting it’s entirely up to each employee).

There is no exception for an employer who makes on-site vaccination available to employees.

Because public and private employees obtain the leave right under separate laws, it’s not clear whether a single agency could issue overall further guidance. The Department of Labor may comment on the provisions affecting private-sector employees. But it may lack jurisdiction over government workplaces.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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