On 12 March 2021, New York State enacted an amendment to the New York Labor Law and the New York Civil Service Law, which provides for four hours of paid leave time, per injection, to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination. The amendment states that both public and private employers must provide employees with a ‘sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection’ to obtain the vaccine. The law bars employers from discriminating against or retaliating against any employee who takes or requests paid COVID-19 vaccination leave, or otherwise exercises their rights under the law.
Employers must pay their employees their regular rate of pay, and the time off cannot be charged against any other leave to which the employee is entitled, including COVID-19 sick leave. Employees’ rights under collective bargaining agreements (CBA) will not be diminished. If a CBA already provides for time off not including to obtain a vaccine, employers must provide for the more generous four-hour allotment for paid time off. A CBA may explicitly waive the provisions of the law going forward.
The law takes effect immediately and expires on 31 December 2022. It is silent as to any retroactive application, that is, whether the law applies to time taken off for vaccinations before the law’s effective date. The law also does not clarify whether employers may request documentation from employees seeking leave. The State is expected to issue further interpretive guidance on these nuanced issues soon.
Private and public employers are encouraged to update their existing policies to ensure compliance with the new law. Employers should train their supervisory employees on the effects of the new law and how to handle employees’ requests for leave to obtain their COVID-19 vaccinations.