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New York State Sick Leave and COVID-19

Jacob S. Claveloux
May 4, 2020

          After initially passing temporary sick leave protection for workers affected by COVID-19 in March, the New York State Legislature followed those temporary and limited protections with the passage of mandatory sick leave for workers throughout the state through an amendment to the New York Labor Law, signed into law by governor Cuomo on April 4, 2020.  The new law mandates that all employers in New York State provide at minimum 40 hours of sick leave to their employees beginning on January 1, 2021.  Accrual of sick leave hours eligible to be used after January 1, 2021 begins on September 30, 2020.

            The amount of sick leave required to be provided by employers is based on employer size and net income, ranging from 40 hours of unpaid sick leave (for employers with 4 or less employees and a net income of $1 million or less in the previous tax year) to 56 hours of paid sick leave (for employers with 100 or more employees regardless of net income).  Qualifying reasons for use of sick leave are broad and include use for an employee’s or a family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; seeking domestic violence assistance or services; meetings with attorneys, district attorneys, or social services providers; and various other matters related to health and safety.

            Employers throughout the state must prepare accordingly if they are not already meeting the minimum requirements of the new law, and this includes New York City employers that are currently in compliance with the New York City Earned Sick and Safe Time Act (“ESSTA”). The state’s new sick leave law is in addition to any local law that currently exists and requires less, including the ESSTA, which requires a similar amount of leave for certain categories of employers but which currently requires no more than 40 hours of paid sick leave for any employer.  Notably, the accrual rate for sick leave under the new law is the same as that of the ESSTA, at a rate of at least 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.  The NYS Department of Labor is expected to issue guidance in order to clarify the requirements of the new law.