UPDATE: Governor Cuomo signed the Bill on March 12, 2021. The Bill took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.
The New York State (“NYS”) Legislature passed a bill (“Bill”) that would allow employees of public and private employers to take paid time off to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The Bill is set to be delivered to Governor Cuomo and will take effect immediately upon his signature, thereby amending the New York Labor Law by adding Section 196-C for private employees and amending the Civil Service Law by adding Section 159-c for public employees.
The Bill states that all NYS employers will be required to provide employees with a paid leave of absence from work “for a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection” unless the employer authorizes additional time off for COVID-19 vaccinations. Unionized workers may also be entitled to more time off for vaccines according to their collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”). However, if the CBA waives such leave rights for COVID-19 vaccination purposes, the CBA must expressly refer to this new law.
Notably, the Bill provides up to four (4) hours of paid leave “per vaccine injection.” This will mean that employees who receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which currently require two doses, will be eligible for a maximum of eight (8) hours paid time off from work. Employees who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose, will be eligible for a maximum of four (4) hours paid time off from work.
Paid time off for COVID-19 vaccinations must be provided in addition to any other sick leave provided by the employer, including paid sick leave under NYS law. Employers must pay employees their regular rate of pay for the hours they are absent from work to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Further, the Bill prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against any employees exercising their leave rights to receive the vaccination.
Unlike similar laws, such as the NYS voting leave law, the Bill does not specify whether employees must provide advance notice to their employers of the need for time off, or whether employers may require employees to take their leave at the start or end of their shifts. The Bill also does not specify whether employers may require employees to provide proof of vaccination. The NYS Department of Labor might issue regulations or guidance that fills in such gaps.
Once the law is in effect, it will expire on December 31, 2022. As we can expect that the Bill will be delivered to Governor Cuomo for signature, employers should be prepared to provide paid time off for COVID-19 vaccination to their employees and amend their handbooks and policies as needed to reflect the new paid leave law.
Moskowitz & Book is tracking the status of the Bill and will keep our clients informed of any further developments.