This article will attempt to explain recent changes to the law and what your rights are as an employee in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
With the coronavirus outbreak currently sweeping the nation, many workers and businesses have been dealing with uncertainty and fears in a landscape that is already been made frightening enough by the ongoing pandemic nipping at our collective heels, and this can be made all the worse if they do not have an understanding of the new laws currently in place that pertain to paid leave and COVID-19. This article will attempt to explain recent changes to the law and what your rights are as an employee in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
In March of 2020, President Donald Trump signed the First Coronavirus Response Act, a Congressional bill aimed at small businesses with 500 or less employees that provides emergency leave and sick leave. As per the U.S. Congress’ website, the bill provides for the following:
Emergency family medical leave time for any worker who has worked for the employer for at least 30 days. Included is up to 12 weeks of emergency family medical leave. This leave can also be used if the employee must take off to care for a child whose school or day care has been closed, or if their caregiver is unavailable. The first 10 days of leave are unpaid, but beyond that an employee must be paid at least two-thirds their normal pay rate – no greater than $200 a day or $10,000 in total – for the remainder of the time, up to 12 weeks. Employees can utilize already accrued paid time off to cover the first 10 days if they wish.
Emergency paid sick leave for all workers regardless of when they began working for the employer. Full-time workers receive 80 hours – the equivalent of two work weeks – of paid time off by their employer. Part-time workers must receive pay in the amount that approximates the normal amount of money they would have been paid in an average two-week span of time. Exceptions to this rule include workers who have been quarantined by an official source (federal, state, or local official or medical professionals) due to coronavirus symptoms, seeking a medical diagnosis regarding Coronavirus symptoms, caring for a child whose school or day care has been closed (or if their caregiver is unavailable), or if they are caring for a friend or relative suffering from a potential case of coronavirus.
Companies with less than 50 employees may be able to avoid compliance with this law if they submit a waiver explaining how adherence would have a detrimental impact upon their viability as a business.
In addition to the federal bill signed by President Trump, New York State has also passed a series of laws addressing numerous aspects of employment that stand to be impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. These new laws provide the following protections to workers in the state:
Immediate paid sick leave for New Yorkers impacted by the coronavirus. There are several tiers governing this law. Employers with 10 or less workers and less than $1 million in annual revenue must provide five days of paid sick leave as well as temporary disability benefits and paid family leave to workers. Employers with 11 to 99 employees, workers are eligible for five days of paid leave, after which they may qualify for either paid family leave or temporary disability benefits. For employers with 100 or more workers, workers are eligible for 14 days of paid sick leave, which may be used even in the case of quarantine ordered by law. Workers that are showing coronavirus symptoms but have not yet been diagnosed do not qualify.
State paid sick leave. Employers with less than four workers and $1 million in net income must offer at least 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. For employers with five to 99 workers, workers are eligible for at least 40 hours of paid sick leave. For employers with 100 or more workers, workers are eligible for at least 56 hours of paid sick leave.
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has also issued an order putting the state on “pause,” mandating that all non-essential personnel must work from home whenever possible, and most non-essential businesses are required to temporarily close in an attempt to help contain the spread of the conoravirus. Examples of essential businesses and services that are allowed to remain open currently are hospitals, supermarkets and other food stores, research and laboratory services, walk-in-care health facilities, veterinary and animal health services, elder care, medical wholesale and distribution, home health care workers or aides, doctor and dentist offices, nursing homes, and medical supplies and equipment providers.