New York State Enacts Quarantine Leave Addressing COVID-19 Emergency

New York State Enacts Quarantine Leave Addressing COVID-19 Emergency

March 24, 2020

Amid a flurry of Executive Orders coming from his office, on March 19 Governor Cuomo signed into law a new statute requiring employers to provide quarantine leave to employees who are subject to mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation orders issued by the state government, the Department of Health or other government entities with the authority to issue such an order.

The emergency quarantine leave law specifically applies to COVID-19 and provides the following entitlements:

  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees, with a net income of less than $1,000,000: employees who are subject to any COVID-19-related order are entitled to unpaid sick leave throughout the duration of their quarantine or isolation. During the period of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation, an employee shall be eligible for paid family leave benefits and benefits due pursuant to disability pursuant to the new law.
  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees, with a net income of $1,000,000 or greater; and employers with between 11 and 99 employees: employees who are subject to any mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation orders are entitled to paid sick leave for the first five days, then unpaid sick leave throughout the duration of their quarantine or isolation. After the five days of paid sick leave, the employee is eligible for New York Paid Family Leave benefits and related disability benefits as permitted by this quarantine leave law.  
  • Employers with more than 100 employees and public employers (e.g., state colleges and universities): employees who are subject to such quarantine or isolation orders due to COVID-19 are entitled to 14 days of paid sick leave.

Employees will qualify for paid family leave to care for a minor dependent child who is subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.

Importantly, the new law states that the leave set forth above "shall be provided without loss of an officer or employee's accrued sick leave."

Following any period of leave (paid or unpaid) employers are obligated to return employees to the same or similar position, with the same benefits and rate of pay. The law also contains an express anti-retaliation provision that prohibits employers from treating an employee adversely for taking any form of leave pursuant to the new law.

There are notable exceptions to the general rules above, including that employers are not obligated to provide paid leave to employees who were subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine because they traveled to a country that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a level two or three health notice. However, these employees still must be provided any PTO or other paid leave under the employer’s existing policies and will have their jobs protected during their period of quarantine/isolation.  

Additionally, employees who are asymptomatic, and still capable of performing their jobs during a quarantine order (e.g. – individuals who can telecommute) are not entitled to use paid or unpaid leave.

Finally, the New York quarantine leave law addresses the interplay between the state law, and any related federal law (which, at the time the state statute was drafted, was only prospective). As we discuss here, the Federal Government has since enacted its own paid sick leave law aimed at addressing the COVID-19 emergency (the Families First Coronavirus Response Act). Considering this, the New York quarantine leave law provides that where the provisions of this state law provide benefits to employees in excess of what they can receive under the federal paid sick leave law, then the employee is eligible to claim those additional benefits such that eligible employees can receive the full benefit amount permitted by state law. Notably, this would include employers with 500 or more employees, who are not immediately affected by the federal law.

The law is complex and leaves open a few questions that may need to be answered by regulations or additional guidance from the state in the coming days. If you have any questions about your businesses' obligations under this new law, the federal sick leave law, or any of the other laws or executive orders currently being enacted, do not hesitate to contact your normal Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr labor and employment attorney. Also, please consult our page dedicated to the wide range of issues facing businesses amid the COVID-19 emergency, here.