New York Requires Paid Leave for COVID-19 Vaccination

On March 12, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 3354B, which amends the New York State Labor Law (“NYLL”) to add Section 196-c. The new law requires that all employers provide employees with a “sufficient period of time,” up to four hours of paid leave per injection, to be vaccinated for COVID-19. Because certain vaccines require two doses, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna vaccines, employees may be eligible for up to eight hours of paid leave (i.e., up to four hours for each dose) to get vaccinated. Further, if additional vaccine doses are recommended in the future, employees may be entitled to additional paid leave. 
The leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay and cannot be charged against any other leave to which the employee is entitled, including the New York State and New York City paid safe and sick leave laws. Notably, the requirements of the law may be waived by a collective bargaining agreement if it explicitly references NYLL § 196-c. Employers are also prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against, or interfering with, an employee who has exercised their rights under the law. The bill took effect on March 12, 2021 and expires on December 31, 2022. 
NYLL § 196-c does not address certain questions that employers may have when implementing the paid leave requirements. For example, the law does not address whether an employer can ask for proof of vaccination or whether employees must provide notice in advance of taking paid time off to receive a vaccine. The State may publish guidance or regulations to provide greater detail on how employers may address these anticipated issues. However, it is likely that the law will be interpreted to encourage employees to get vaccinated. We will notify you if the State publishes additional guidance or regulations on NYLL § 196-c.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the author of this article or your Clifton Budd & DeMaria attorney.