New York COVID-19 Vaccine Leave Law and Guidance

The New York Department of Labor recently issued guidance interpreting New York’s newly enacted Labor Law § 196-C. Leave Time for COVID-19 Vaccination.  The law requires that upon request employers provide employees who work in New York State with up to four hours of paid leave for each scheduled dose of the employee’s own COVID-19 vaccination. Employees receiving two dose vaccinations are afforded up to a total of eight hours paid leave.

Employers may not require employees to use other types of paid leave for this time, including leave provided by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Employees must be paid at their regular rate of pay for the time off.

Employers may require advance notice and proof of vaccination.  However, employers should take into consideration confidentiality requirements prior to requesting proof, and if requested, treat these documents confidentially in the same manner as other medical documentation received from employees.

The law went into effect on March 12, 2021 and expires on December 31, 2022.  The law does not apply retroactively to any employee vaccinations prior to the effective date.  However, nothing in the law prohibits employers from applying it retroactively or providing more leave than required.

Employees covered by a CBA may receive greater paid leave time pursuant to the terms of their CBA.  The provisions of the new law may also be waived in a CBA, but any such waiver must expressly reference Labor Law § 196-C.

The law prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who have exercised their rights under the law, including by requesting or obtaining COVID-19 vaccination leave.

The law requires employees be afforded a “sufficient period of time” not to exceed four hours to receive their vaccination dose.  The period of time that is considered “sufficient” remains undefined in the guidance and left to common sense judgments.

Employers with questions regarding the sufficiency of the time period for an individual employee’s leave or other aspects of this new law, should consult with counsel.  Employers should also update their policies and provide training to supervisors to ensure compliance.