On March 18th, Governor Cuomo signed emergency legislation guaranteeing job protection and pay for New Yorkers who have been quarantined due to COVID-19. To qualify for such benefits, the employee or their minor dependent child must be subject to an order of mandatory or precautionary isolation issued by any of the following:
State of New York
Department of Health
Local Board of Health
Any government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19 Note that these benefits are NOT available to employees who are eligible to work through remote access or other means. The extent of the employees’ benefits and coverage is dictated by the size of the employer as follows (note, the employee count for these definitions is as of January 1, 2020):
Small Employers - Less than 10 Employees and less than $1 million of net annual income – The employer is required to provide unpaid sick leave until the termination of the quarantine or isolation. Eligible employees can use NY Paid Family Leave (PFL). This is insurance coverage that provides up to 60% of the employees pay, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70. After receiving the maximum benefit under PFL, the employee will receive disability benefits to match their full wages up to a weekly maximum disability benefit of $2,043.92. Between the PFL and disability, this is a maximum weekly benefit of $2,884.62 per week. There is no waiting period for either benefit and the employee has job protection during the duration of the quarantine.
Medium Employers - Less than 10 employees and at least $1 million of net annual income OR 11 to 99 employees (regardless of income) – First, the employer is required to provide the employee with five (5) days of paid sick leave. After that, the PFL and disability benefits detailed under the small employer rule above take effect. Again, once the paid sick leave is used, there is no waiting period for the PFL and disability and the employee has job protection during the duration of the quarantine.
Large Employers – Any employer with 100 or more employees as well as public employers (regardless of size) – The employer is required to provide the employee with at least fourteen (14) days paid sick leave for the COVID-19 related quarantine which should cover the entire period of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation. NYS does not expressly state that after the 14 days PFL and disability will apply, however some reputable sources have stated the PFL and disability should apply in that case.
To request benefits under these provisions, employees must submit the necessary paperwork to the employer’s insurance carrier within thirty (30) days after the start of the employee’s leave to avoid losing benefits. Find full details, along with the necessary forms and specific claim filing instructions here.
Employees should be advised that these benefits are taxable benefits and they have the option of having taxes withheld to avoid a nasty surprise come April 2021.
Major caveats to the New York Expanded Sick Leave
There is no paid leave if the quarantine is the result of travel subject to CDC Level 2 or 3 alerts.
The paid sick leave that employers are required to provide is in addition to any other sick time the employee may have accrued with the employer.
After the sick leave is over, the employee must be restored to their prior position with the same terms and conditions that existed pre-quarantine.
Strict prohibition of discrimination or retaliation against the employee for use of the leave.
Employees Who Are Uncomfortable in the Workplace Everyone reacts and interacts with situations differently and employers must be willing to adapt to this. It is advisable that in these times an employer try to be as accommodating as possible through means such as (1) allowing your employees to work from home, (2) allowing employees to use PTO and (3) allowing employees to take unpaid leave.
If employees need to be on site partially, consider having half your employees in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while having the other half in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday to reduce levels of exposure. Please also consider increasing cleaning efforts on common high-touch areas such as doors, phones, key pads, finger and palm scanners, etc.
New York Shared Work Program (Partial Unemployment) Under New York’s Shared Work Program, employees can receive partial unemployment insurance benefits while working reduced hours. This is eligible for full-time, part-time and seasonal employees. This involves establishing a formal shared work plan with New York State and has several key requirements. But done properly it can retain trained and essential employees while reducing the employer’s payroll burden. For full details on this, please visit the New York Shared Work Program website.
You can also contact NYS regarding the shared work program at 518-549-0496 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Employees Who Are Fully Laid Off (New York Specific) Laying off employees is the final stage for most employers as it is the hardest decision an employer has to make. Should employees ultimately be laid off, they are immediately entitled to unemployment benefits from New York State instead of facing the typical seven-day waiting period. This is for people who are out of work due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) closures or quarantines. If the laid off employees need to file, they can do so online based on the first letter of their last name. File on Monday if your last name begins with A-F; Tuesday if your last name begins with G-N; Wednesday if your last name begins with O-Z. If you missed your day, file on Thursday-Saturday.
The online application process as well as other details for the employee can be found here.
We are concentrating on New York as most of our clients operate in that state and New York has been hardest hit by the coronavirus. Please let us know if you need information about programs in any other state.
Your professionals at Castellano Korenberg & Co. are always available to assist you through this tough time of trying to make sense of all the new regulations being passed. Stay up to date with the most recent information by visiting our Coronavirus Resource page on our website, call us at 516-937-9500, or contact your CK professional for more information.