New York State Enacts Law Providing Paid Time Off for COVID-19 Vaccination

Governor Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation S2558A/A3354-B granting all public and private employees in New York paid leave to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. The new legislation, which is effective as of March 12, 2021 and expires on December 31, 2022, amends the New York Civil Service Law (with respect to public employees), along with the New York Labor Law, and provides public and private employees with up to four hours of paid leave per vaccine injection.

In connection with this legislation, the New York Labor Law was amended to add Section 196-c, which provides that:

  1. New York employees must receive paid COVID-19 vaccine leave of up to four hours per vaccine injection. Thus, employees receiving a two-injection COVID-19 vaccine (such as those currently offered by Pfizer and Moderna) will receive up to eight hours of paid leave to obtain the vaccine.
  2. The “four hour” maximum does not apply to an employee subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) providing a greater number of hours of leave to obtain the vaccine or where an employer authorizes additional time off for employees to receive the vaccine.
  3. The leave must be paid at an employee’s regular rate of pay.
  4. The leave cannot be charged against “any other” employee leave. Accordingly, employers cannot require employees to use other available leave, including, but not limited to, leave under any company policy and paid sick leave under state or city law, prior to taking paid vaccine leave.

In addition, the law’s requirements may be waived by a CBA, provided the CBA explicitly references Section 196-c of the Labor Law.

Employers are also prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against any employee who requests time off or takes paid time off to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine.

Notably, the law does not specify whether an employee must provide documentation supporting his or her need for leave or state whether an employer may require an employee to provide advance notice to the employer of his or her intent to take leave.

While some employers already voluntarily provide paid time off to employees for COVID-19 vaccination purposes, all New York employers should review their current policies and practices to ensure compliance with the new law.

If you have any questions regarding this blog or require any assistance in updating policies, please contact any attorney in the Gibbons Employment & Labor Law Department.

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