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Life moves fast in New York. From the crowded streets of Manhattan to the winding roads and sudden shifts in weather upstate, there’s little time to catch a break or catch a breath. To make it in the Empire State, businesses need to have grit, acuity, and the capacity to adapt to tough, ever-changing circumstances.

Those circumstances include the state’s rigorous workforce laws and regulations. New York has earned a reputation for far-reaching legislation and aggressive enforcement of rules surrounding employee health and safety, fraud, harassment, and more. For employers, noncompliance could lead to significant fines, litigation, and even criminal prosecution. Learn what you need to know to keep your people safe and stay on the right side of the law.

New York COVID-19 State Regulations

Below is a round-up of COVID-19 state regulations for employers navigating how to operate safely during the pandemic. If you believe there may be a discrepancy between a state and local order that affects you or your business, you should contact your local government and/or competent local counsel for further advice.

[Updated 11/5/20]

Face Coverings Mandate

Under Executive Order 2020.16, essential businesses must provide employees with face coverings until at least May 12, 2020. Until May 15, 2020, all state residents must wear a face mask in public and on public or private transportation.

Update 6/9/20: Executive Order 202.34 issued to allow business operators to refuse guests who are not wearing face coverings.

Additional Resources

New York What You Need to Know

Interim Guidance on Executive Order 202.16

Interim Guidance on Executive Orders 202.17 and 202.18

Executive Order 2020.16

Executive Order 2020.17

Executive Order 2020.18

Understanding Unemployment Insurance for New York Employers

The Department of Labor issued the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program Letter No. 15-20 to help employers understand UI benefits as they relate to COVID-19, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, and the federal CARES Act.

The document also outlines the impact of UI benefits on part-time employees, receive severance, or receive vacation payouts. When terminating or furloughing an employee, employers must provide Form IA 12.3 to help the worker apply for unemployment.

Job Protections and Paid Sick Leave

Who: New York employers and employees

When: Effective Immediately

What:

Update 6/30/20: Executive Order 202.45 was issued to exclude employees who voluntarily travel to high-risk states after June 25 will not be eligible for paid sick leave benefits, unless the travel is for work-related reasons. View the press release.

To support employees that have been quarantined or isolated because of a COVID-19 government order, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature have agreed to a bill that expands paid and unpaid leave for employees:

Employers with 10 or fewer employees as of 1/1/20 must provide unpaid sick leave until the quarantine/isolation order ends. These employees are eligible for the New York State Paid Family Leave and disability benefits during this time.

Employers with 10 or fewer employees as of 1/1/20 with a net income of $1 million or more in the last tax year, or employers between 11-99 employees as of 1/1/20, must provide at least 5 days of paid sick leave, followed by unpaid leave until the quarantine/isolation order ends. When the 5 days of paid leave are used, these employees are eligible for the New York State Paid Family Leave and disability benefits.

Employers with 100 or more employees as of 1/1/20 must provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave during the quarantine/isolation followed by unpaid sick leave until the quarantine/isolation order ends.

Exceptions:

If the employee has taken personal travel to any country that the CDC declared a level 2 or 3 travel health notice, and, prior to travel, the employee was provided the health travel notice.

If the employee is still able to work under quarantine or isolation by teleworking and if the employee hasn’t been diagnosed with any medical condition is declared asymptomatic.

Job Protection

If an employee takes leave, they must be restored to their position when the leave is over, with similar pay. Employers can’t discharge, retaliate, or discriminate against employees that have used the protected leave.

Permanent Paid Sick Leave

The bill permanently amends the current New York Labor Law:

Employers with 4 or fewer employees are obligated to provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave each calendar year.

Employers with 5-99 employees, or 4 or fewer employees with a net income of $1 million or more in the last tax year, are obligated up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each calendar year.

Employers with 100 employees or more are obligated to provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave each calendar year.

Beginning on the first day of employment, each employee must accrue sick leave at a rate of not less than 1 hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers can frontload all of the required sick leave to employees.

Employers should set reasonable time increments for how employees can use sick leave, not exceeding 4 hours. Unused sick leave carries over to the next calendar year, keeping in mind that the employers with less than 100 employees can limit the sick leave to 40 hours per calendar year and employers with 100 employees or more can limit the sick leave up to 56 hours per calendar year. Employers don’t need to pay an employee for unused sick leave when they’re separated from employment.

Reasons for using sick leave

Mental or physical illness, injury, or condition of the employee or a family member, no matter if there is a diagnosis or medical care required at the time of the request.

For the diagnosis, care, preventive care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness or injury of the employee or a family member.

Incidents related to domestic violence, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking where the employee needs to miss work.

How:

Assess and review your current business outlook and work with your legal counsel as you make decisions regarding employment.

Review and update your current sick leave policies and procedures, which may include payroll, to accommodate the permanent changes made to sick leave.

Additional Resources

SB 8091 Paid Sick Leave Bill

Governor Andrew Cuomo Announce Three-Way Agreement with Legislature on Paid Sick Leave Bill to Provide Immediate Assistance for New Yorkers Impacted by COVID-19

New York Guide About COVID-19 Testing, Quarantine, Monitoring

Who: New York employers and residents

When: Effective Immediately

What: Governor Andrew Cuomo released an “Interim Containment Guidance: Precautionary Quarantine, Mandatory Quarantine and Mandatory Isolation for Local Health Departments” to define the above categories and what shelter requirements are necessary for each category. The guidance also gives authority to Local Health Department if it feels its jurisdiction requires additional restrictions, visitations, or additional resources.

For employers, any individual who is under any level of quarantine or isolation is protected from any negative impact on their employment. At the beginning and end of a quarantine/isolation, Local Health Department Commissioners or Public Health Directors can address these concerns. Employers can also contact the New York State Department of Labor.

Categories:

Mandatory Quarantine. Any person who has been within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and not displaying symptoms, or a person who has traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, or Italy and is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

Mandatory Isolation. Any person who has tested positive for COVID-19, regardless of whether or not the person is displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

Precautionary Quarantine. Any person who meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Has traveled to China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, or Italy while COVID-19 was prevalent but isn’t showing symptoms;
  • Has had proximate exposure to a positive person, but not direct contact with a positive person and is not displaying symptoms. Local Health Departments can also place any person under a precautionary quarantine if it is warranted.

How:

Provide support to your employees during this time and make yourself available to answer their questions and concerns about their work functions under quarantine or isolation.

Consult with your legal counsel to ensure any changes you have to make to a worker’s employment status are compliant with state rules.

Additional Resources

New York State Guidance

New York City COVID-19 Resource

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