On March 12, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill granting public and private employees paid leave in order to get a COVID-19 vaccine, specifically four hours per injection. The NY State Paid COVID-19 vaccination and family leave guidelines state that employees cannot be docked time for leaving the office to get a COVID vaccine for up to eight hours. Note: If an employee receives the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot, obviously that employee is only entitled to four hours off to get the vaccine.
The new law prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against an employee who takes the time off for vaccination purposes. An employer also cannot take adverse action against any employee who claims that adverse action was taken for that purpose. This is known as “protected activity.”
Additionally, the rate of pay cannot be decreased or counted against sick, personal or any other type of leave. Of course, if you are in a union there may be parts of the collective bargaining agreement that supersedes the new law. Check with your union rep on this one. Unfortunately the legislature did not make clear whether or not the new law applies retroactively for people who received their vaccines prior to March 12, so...confusing.
My take? Employers would be wise to restore any sick or personal time to an employee was was docked so as to avoid a Labor Department complaint.
The new law is set to expire on December 31, 2022. New York employers should look to New York State Department of Labor’s new regulations regarding the new law to stay informed about enforcement and potential penalties.
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