In previous articles, we summarized the federal paid-leave laws and regulations under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) and the New York State Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19, and the benefit interplay between the federal, state and New York City laws and regulations.
As previously reported, under the New York State Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19, New York employees who were self-quarantined because they voluntarily traveled for non-business purposes to a country with a level 2 or 3 CDC notice, and knew of the restriction and were provided with the travel notice, were ineligible for the New York State Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19. Until now, no similar disqualification restriction existed for interstate travel.
With COVID-19 cases escalating across the United States, Governor Cuomo took immediate and decisive steps to sustain New York’s positive recovery by requiring travelers coming into New York from a list of hot-spot states to self-quarantine for 14 days. This list, which continues to change based on “a seven day rolling average, of positive tests in excess of 10%, or number of positive cases exceeding 10 per 100,000 residents”, currently includes 16 states.
On June 26, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 202.45 (effective through July 26), stating that New York employees required to self-quarantine because they traveled domestically to a hot spot will not be eligible to receive any paid COVID-19 sick leave benefits during their 14-day mandatory self-quarantine. Keep in mind that New York employees working for employers with over 500 employees, are already ineligible for sick leave benefits under FFCRA, and the only available paid COVID-19 sick leave would otherwise be under the New York State Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19. Clearly, this recent Order was designed to further discourage New York workers from travelling to states with high rates of COVID-19.
Consequently, going forward, if:
- The New York employee travels after June 25, 2020; and
- The employee travels to a “hot spot” state as designated by the NYS Commissioner of Health; and
- The travel is voluntary (“not taken as part of the employee’s employment or at the direction of the employee’s employer”)
then the New York employee may be eligible for paid sick leave under FFCRA (if the employer has less than 500 employees), but will be ineligible for the New York State Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19.
Notwithstanding an employer’s obligations under the FFCRA and/or the New York State Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19, if an employee is subject to an order of quarantine, but remote work is available, the New York self-quarantined worker could avoid unpaid leave by working remotely. In addition, please keep in mind that employers have always had the discretion to refuse paid sick leave under FFCRA to medical providers and other enumerated workers.
As the COVID-19 leave laws continue to evolve to meet changing circumstances and policy considerations, employers are encouraged to review their particular circumstances with counsel to avoid making errors in benefit determinations.