New York State recently took legislative action to facilitate its COVID-19 vaccine rollout by requiring all New York employers to provide employees up to four hours of paid leave for each COVID-19 vaccine injection received by the employee. The new leave law, which amends Article 6 of the New York Labor Law by adding a new section 196-c, is effective as of March 13, 2021, and expires on December 31, 2022. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a press release regarding the new law, emphasized the critical importance in the fight against COVID-19 of allowing private employees to take time off to be vaccinated without exhausting other types of leave they have earned.
While the amendment does not contain many specifics regarding how employers are to implement and administer the new leave, a few details are clear from the language of the act:
The new law does not affect an employee’s right, pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or by virtue of a more generous policy by an employer, to a longer leave for the purpose of receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.
The amendment prohibits discrimination or retaliation against any employee for the exercise of a right pursuant to the vaccination leave law.
New York employers would be well-advised to take immediate steps to ensure compliance with the state’s new vaccination leave law, such as advising human resource managers of the amendment, revising written leave policies to incorporate a reference to the vaccination leave and developing a method for processing and tracking requests for such leaves.
Moreover, while New York appears to be the first state to implement an explicit mandatory vaccination leave law that operates independently from other types of leave requirements, other states, including California, have sick leave laws that compensate employees for time spent getting a vaccination. And other states may not be far behind New York in requiring stand-alone vaccination leave benefits. Accordingly, employers across the nation should remain informed about legislative developments in their respective states.
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