If you are going to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and are employed, does your employer allow COVID-19 vaccination paid leave? This is a question that some state lawmakers are hoping to tackle by mandating public entities and/or businesses to grant a certain amount of paid leave to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. New York recently passed legislation related to COVID-19 vaccination paid leave. Could others join suit?
State lawmakers in New York recently passed legislation granting time off for public employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. S2588A, signed into law by the governor, amends the state’s civil service law to allow public employees up to four hours of paid leave per injection to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. An employee can receive a greater number of paid leave hours depending on their collective bargaining agreement or if otherwise authorized by their employer.
The legislation makes clear the paid leave shall be excused and shall not be charged against any other leave someone is entitled to. The bill also states the entire period of paid leave shall be provided at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Those eligible for COVID-19 vaccination paid leave under the bill includes every public officer and employee in New York, as well as employees from any of the following entities:
Public benefit corporation;
Board of cooperative educational services (BOCES);
Vocational education and extension board;
A participating employer in the New York State and Local Employees’ Retirement System; or
A participating employer in the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.
In early March, the Massachusetts Senate President and House Speaker announced an agreement on a COVID-19 relief bill. In the announcement, the lawmakers said in order to help protect frontline workers and help prevent the continued spread of COVID-19, their legislation will include provisions ensuring all employees have access to paid leave if they are unable to work due to catching the coronavirus, are ordered to quarantine, or need to take time off to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The bill is still pending, but would require an employer to provide COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave to an employee for numerous coronavirus-related reasons. Such reasons include an employee’s need to self-isolate and care for themselves due to COVID-19 diagnosis, to seek or obtain medical diagnosis, care, or treatment for COVID-19 symptoms, or to obtain immunization related to COVID-19 or they are recovering from an injury, disability, illness, or condition related to such immunization.
Measures at the federal and state levels that required most businesses to offer paid leave of two weeks for various coronavirus-related reasons expired at the beginning of the year. Some lawmakers hoped to change that with new legislation and achieved their goal with the passage of SB 95. The bill, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on March 19, makes various statutory changes to implement COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave. Specifically, SB 95:
Reestablishes the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for employers who have more than 25 employees;
Specifies that a covered employee is entitled to COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the employee is unable tow ork or telework because the employee is:
Subject to quarantine or isolation related to COVID-19;
Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
Attending an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine;
Experiencing symptoms related to a COVID-19 vaccine that prevents the employee from being able to work;
Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis; or
Caring for a family member or child who is subject to quarantine or isolation.
Provides up to two weeks or 80 hours of COVID-19 supplemental leave to eligible employees; and
Specifies that the total number of hours under COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave is in addition to any paid sick leave that may be available under existing law.
SB 95 also specifies that an employer shall not require an employee to use other paid leave or unpaid leave before the employee uses their COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave and applies retroactively to January 1, 2021.
The bill further states that each hour of COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave for nonexempt employees shall be compensated based on the highest pay rate equal to the following: (a) calculated in the same manner as the regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the employee uses COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, (b) calculated by dividing the total wages, not including overtime premium pay, by the total hours worked, in the full pay period of the prior 90 days worked, (c) state minimum wage, or (d) local minimum wage. For exempt employees, the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave shall be calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time.