Coronavirus Update: New York State Passes COVID-19 Laws

March 19, 2020 | Kenneth A. Novikoff | Brian S. Conneely | John K. Diviney | Tamika Hardy | Keegan B. Sapp | Employment & Labor

In response to the growing concerns over the coronavirus, (COVID-19) Governor Cuomo issued a temporary mandatory work-force reduction plan (Executive Order) and signed a COVID-19 relief bill (COVID-19 Bill).

COVID-19 Executive Order

The Executive Order mandates that all non-essential businesses implement work from home policies and reduce in-office staff by 50%. In fact, as we speak, Governor Cuomo has indicated he is raising this threshold to 75%. The Executive Order defines essential businesses to include, but not be limited to, essential health care operations including research and laboratory services; infrastructure (utilities, telecommunication, airports and transportation); manufacturing (food processing and pharmaceuticals); grocery stores; and providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations. This list is not exhaustive and we recommend reviewing the entirety of the Executive Order, or call one of our labor and employment attorneys, if you believe your business is not impacted.

The Executive Order will take effect on March 20th at 8:00 pm.

COVID-19 Relief Bill

Governor Cuomo’s COVID-19 Bill will provide paid sick time-off for employees affected by the novel COVID-19 virus. The COVID-19 Bill will affect employers of all sizes and provide paid job-protected leave for employees who are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation.

The COVID-19 Bill will provide protections to employees of private and public employers that are subject to mandatory or precautionary orders of quarantine or isolation issued by the state of New York, the department of health, local health boards or any government entity duly authorized to issue such order, due to COVID-19. An employer’s obligation will be determined on a sliding scale depending on its size and net income.

The COVID-19 Bill will provide the following:

  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees and net income less than $1 million will provide job protection for the duration of the quarantine order and guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
  • Employers with 11-99 employees, and employers with a net income greater than $1 million (and with 10 or fewer employees) will provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave, job protection for the duration of the quarantine order, and will guarantee their workers access to Paid Family Leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000.
  • Employers with 100 or more employees, as well as all public employers (regardless of number of employees), will provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order.

The foregoing will not affect an employee’s already accrued sick time under an employer’s paid time-off policy. Thus, the COVID-19 Bill suggests that an employee may take his or her accrued sick leave during a quarantine or isolation order after exhausting any benefit under the COVID-19 Bill. Upon return to work, an employer must reinstate an employee to his or her prior position. The paid leave provisions of the COVID-19 Bill are currently in effect.

Expanded Disability Protections

To provide further protection and compensation for New York employees the COVID-19 Bill will also expand the scope of certain existing benefits under the disability law. The COVID-19 Bill expands the following definitions:

  • The term “disability,” for purposes of New York’s disability law, will include an inability to perform the regular duties of a person’s employment because of a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order and after the employee has exhausted all available paid sick leave.
  • The term “family leave,” for purposes of the New York’s Paid Family Leave Law, will provisionally include any leave from work because the employee is subject to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order and provides care for a minor dependent child of the employee who is subject to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order.

The expanded disability provisions of the COVID-19 Bill are currently in effect.

New York State Leave Law

Unrelated to the COVID-19 outbreak, the COVID-19 Bill also creates an entirely new, comprehensive New York State Sick Leave Law, which will become effective 180 days after the COVID-19 Bill’s enactment. We will provide guidance on New York State Sick Leave law, including its overlap with local sick leave laws, in detail in the coming days. If you have any questions about the COVID-19 Bill, please contact an attorney in the Employment & Labor Practice Group.

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