The American Rescue Act Plan of 2021 extended and expanded the FFCRA paid COVID leaves in a number of different ways. First, it extended the FFCRA expiration deadline from March 31 to September 30, 2021 for those employers who voluntarily extended the program, giving those employers dollar-for-dollar tax credits for the monies paid to employees. Secondly, it extended the amount of time off an employee could take for COVID related reasons and it expanded the reasons for qualified COVID leave.
With September 30 just around the corner, what obligations do employers in New York State have to their employees with regard to paid COVID leaves?
When the FFCRA Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and Expanded Family Medical and Leave (EFMLA) end, New York employers may still be required to pay their employees under the NYS Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave. On March 18, 2020, New York State enacted legislation authorizing paid sick leave for employees who were subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19. The law provided paid and unpaid sick leave with access to expanded paid family leave and temporary disability depending on the size of the employer. All employees, regardless of the size of their employer, were entitled to job protection upon return from this leave.
On January 20, 2021 the NYS Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance clarifying the benefits available to all employees (with the exception of those employees in the healthcare industry) under the NY Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave law. See this link for the guidance. The NY DOL’s guidance provides that employees can qualify for COVID-19 Sick Leave for up to three orders of quarantine or isolation. To be eligible for the sick leave benefits during the second and third quarantine or isolation order, the employee must either (1) return to work following a period of quarantine or isolation and subsequently receive a positive diagnostic test result for COVID-19, or (2) continue to test positive for COVID-19 after the end of the initial quarantine or isolation period.
Additionally, the guidance also creates leave obligations even in circumstances where an employee is not subject to an order of quarantine or isolation. If an employer requires an employee who is not otherwise subject to an order of quarantine or isolation to remain out of work due to exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19, regardless of whether the exposure was in the workplace, the employer is required to continue to pay the employee at the employee’s regular rate of pay until either the employer allows the employee to return to work, or the employee becomes subject to an order of quarantine or isolation.
Employers with questions on this guidance should reach out to PMP for assistance.