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Pandemic Leads to New Rules on Employee Sick Leave

Andrew I. Bart in Legal/Financial on April 21, 2020

New York City

Coronavirus, sick leave, family leave, co-op and condo boards.
April 21, 2020

Both New York State and the federal government have enacted new laws regarding paid and unpaid sick leave in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Co-op and condo boards need to know which rights their employees can exercise under these new laws to protect themselves, their families, and residents.

New York State Coronavirus Quarantine Leave Law
New York State’s quarantine law applies to employees who are under an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine and cannot work remotely.

Employees working for an employer with 10 or fewer employees and a net annual income of less than $1 million may use a combination of New York State Paid Family Leave and disability benefits. They can use Paid Family Leave, which provides 60 percent of an employee’s pay, for a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70. If an employee’s weekly wage is higher than $840.70, she can apply to receive additional benefits through disability benefits insurance. The maximum weekly disability benefit is $2,043.92.

For employees working for an employer with between 11-99 employees and employers of 1-10 employees with a net annual income greater than $1 million, employees are given more protections. These employers must provide at least five days of paid sick leave. After that time, an employee can use the same combination of paid family leave and disability benefits. An employer with 100 or more employees must provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave.

Employees are also entitled to leave to care for a minor dependent child who is under quarantine. An employee who works 20 or more hours per week is eligible after 26 weeks of consecutive employment.

Federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
An employee is entitled to take paid sick leave if she is subject to a quarantine; has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a diagnosis; or is caring for an individual subject to a quarantine or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine.

An employee may also take such leave if she is caring for her child if the child’s school or day care is closed or unavailable due to a public health emergency.

Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide full-time employees with 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate, with some exceptions. Paid sick leave must be provided regardless of the employee’s duration of employment. However, employees who take the leave to care for another individual or a child are to receive two-thirds of their regular pay rate.

Paid sick leave wages are limited to $511 per day for a total of up to $5,110 per employee. If the employee is caring for another person or a child, the sick leave wages are limited to $200 per day for a total of up to $2,000.

A full-time employee of a business with fewer than 500 employees can request that she be paid for 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave instead of the initial 10 days of unpaid leave permitted by emergency family leave, which is discussed below.

Federal Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act has been temporarily amended to expand coverage to employers of fewer than 500 employees. Unpaid leave is now available to any employee who has worked for the employer for at least a month.
An employer of 50 or fewer employees can request an exemption if he demonstrates that adhering to coverage would jeopardize the existence of his business.

The only qualifying reason for leave is for an employee (unable to work or telework) to care for her minor child if the child’s school or care provider is closed or unavailable. This employee must have been employed for at least 30 days and may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.

The first 10-day period of the emergency leave may be unpaid. After 10 days, the pay rate is two-thirds the regular rate for the number of hours the employee would have been scheduled. Pay is limited to $200 per day for up to $10,000 per employee.

Andrew I. Bart is an associate at the law firm Borah Goldstein Altschuler Nahins & Goidel.

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