COVID-19: New York and New Jersey Pass Legislation Protecting Employees
Within the last several days, New York and New Jersey took action to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on employees and to help protect their employment status during this uncertain economic time.
This Holland & Knight alert details some of the key aspects of the New York and New Jersey legislation and their impact on both employers and employees.
On March 18, 2020, New York adopted legislation, effective immediately, to provide sick leave to employees who are unable to work because of mandatory self-isolation or quarantine imposed by a local or state government agency following symptoms or diagnosis of COVID-19.
The legislation differentiates between private-sector employers of different size (measured as of Jan. 1, 2020) and net income in providing for the following amounts of leave for employees:
- Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income of $1 million or less must provide job-protected unpaid sick leave for employees to use during self-isolation or quarantine.
- Employers with either:
- 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million; or
- between 11 and 99 employees must provide at least five days of job-protected paid sick leave for employees to use during self-isolation or quarantine.
- Employers with 100 or more employees (and all public employers of any size) must provide at least 14 days of job-protected paid sick leave for employees to use during self-isolation or quarantine.
Employees are entitled to use the leave provided by this legislation before exhausting their other accrued sick leave.
It is important for employers to note that the new legislation supplements existing entitlements to sick days, and employers should comply with their existing policies if their policies afford greater benefits to employees than the new legislation.
Employees who have traveled to countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had already issued Level 2 or Level 3 travel health notices, however, are not entitled to paid leave under the new legislation.
The legislation also allows employees of employers with fewer than 100 employees (i.e., those who receive fewer than 14 days of paid sick leave under the legislation) to use New York State Paid Family Leave and disability benefits for the remainder of their self-isolation or quarantine. Employees may use this leave for the following reasons:
- the inability to work during a quarantine or isolation order
- the need to care for a dependent child because of a quarantine or isolation order
- the need to care for an eligible family member who contracts COVID-19 and requires inpatient care or continuing treatment or supervision by a healthcare provider
New York also expanded the definition of "disability" under its Workers' Compensation law to encompass the inability to work because of a mandatory or precautionary order of isolation or quarantine related to COVID-19.
On March 19, 2020, New Jersey approved by legislation guidance issued from the New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. The guidance protects employees who are suffering from or are likely to be suffering from an "infectious disease," including but not limited to viruses such as COVID-19. As of March 19, disability related to COVID-19 is now covered under the already expansive New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), which prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees because of their membership in various protected classes. An employer may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee who requests or takes leave because of symptoms or a diagnosis of COVID-19. In addition, an employee who takes such leave must be returned to his or her same position held prior to the commencement of the leave.
New Jersey is also expected, within the next week, to pass legislation that will provide paid family leave and sick leave to employees affected by COVID-19.
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act, enacted on March 18, 2020, and effective as of April 2, 2020, also provides for paid sick leave for eligible employees, as well as a temporary expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act. (See Holland & Knight's previous alert, "New Law Requires Employers at Certain Firms Provide Leave, Gives Employer Tax Credits," March 19, 2020.)
For questions about how this new legislation applies to your organization or what new obligations you may owe your employees, please contact the authors or another member of Holland & Knight's Labor, Employment and Benefits Group. Holland & Knight attorneys have extensive experience advising organizations on legal compliance and best practices in addressing the effects of COVID-19.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and that the subject matter discussed in these publications may change on a daily basis. Please contact the author or your responsible Holland & Knight lawyer for timely advice.
Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.