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On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed Senate Bill S2588, which grants time off for public and private employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. The newly enacted legislation is effective immediately, and expires on December 22, 2022.

New Paid Leave Entitlement

Employees receiving the COVID-19 vaccination will be provided with a paid leave of absence from their employer for a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection, unless an employee is permitted to receive a greater number of hours pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement or as otherwise authorized by an employer. Time is to be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay for each COVID-19 vaccine injection.

Under the new legislation, the leave of absence that employees are now allotted for time spent receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will not be charged against any other leave, such as paid time off, sick leave, or any rights and benefits which employees may accrue through a collective bargaining agreement.

Protection From Discrimination

The law prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against any employee because they have exercised their rights under this legislation, including requesting or obtaining a leave of absence to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Background and Additional Information

In passing this legislation, New York hopes that granting both public and private employees official time off to receive the vaccination, without having to exhaust current leave, will advance the fight against COVID-19.  As a result of this bill, two New York laws have been amended to reflect these changes: Section 159-C of the New York Civil Service Law, and Section 196-C of the New York Labor Law.

To date, the Food and Drug Administration has approved three vaccines: Pfizer and Moderna, which require two injections, and the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires one injection. Accordingly, employees receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations are entitled to up to eight hours of paid leave (up to two four-hour leaves), and employees receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccination are entitled to up to four hours of paid leave. Employers should check current policies or collective bargaining agreements to see if their employees are provided with greater amounts of paid leave for the COVID-19 vaccine.

New York has not issued any guidance or FAQs regarding the new legislation. Consult with your Baker McKenzie employment lawyer regarding any questions that may arise, such as updating employee policies and handbooks, the required notice that employees should give to employers ahead of their vaccine appointments, or if proof of the employee’s vaccine appointment is required.

Last, note that New York announced new travel quarantine rules. Governor Cuomo stated that beginning April 1, domestic travelers to New York will no longer be required to quarantine. Domestic travelers will still need to monitor systems for 14 days after arriving in the state and should self-isolate if they experience symptoms. Quarantine still remains mandatory for international travelers visiting New York.