Cuomo Plans To Sign Paid Sick Leave Bill Amid Coronavirus

By Emily Brill
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Law360 (March 17, 2020, 9:39 PM EDT) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that he plans to sign a bill shoring up workers' jobs during the coronavirus quarantine and guaranteeing New Yorkers paid sick leave, a move that would make the Empire State the 14th state to adopt a paid sick time policy.

The legislation guarantees workers at small to midsize companies up to 40 hours of paid sick leave annually, while workers at companies with more than 100 employees can count on up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year. Workers at companies with fewer than five employees would get up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave annually unless their employer had a net income of more than $1 million in the previous year, in which case the leave must be paid.

The policy would go into effect 180 days after the legislature passes it, according to the bill.

The legislation, which Cuomo says lawmakers have agreed to pass, also provides additional paid sick leave and job protections for workers during the COVID-19 crisis. Under the bill, companies cannot fire New Yorkers because they fail to show up to work while the government is recommending people stay inside to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The bill also provides emergency paid sick leave to workers, effective immediately. Companies with more than 100 employees must fund 14 days of paid sick leave. Companies with between 11 and 99 employees must fund five days of paid sick leave and give workers access to short-term disability benefits and paid family leave, which under New York law is funded through employee payroll deductions. And companies with 10 or fewer employees must give their workers access to paid family leave and short-term disability benefits, though they have no obligation to pay for sick leave themselves, according to the legislation.

The emergency sick leave provisions would remain in effect for the duration of any "mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation" put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to the bill, which is currently circulating through the legislature as S.B. 8090 and A.B. 10152.​​​​​​​

If the bill passes, New York will be the 14th state to adopt paid sick leave and the first state to enact legislation addressing COVID-19's impact on workers.

California, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Hawaii, Minnesota and Washington are also considering legislation addressing coronavirus' impact on the workforce, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Cuomo said Tuesday that the bill was an effort to ensure all New York's workers and not just employees of the state, to whom he promised two weeks of paid sick leave last week, were protected during the coronavirus pandemic.

"No New Yorker should lose their job or income for following a critical public health order," Cuomo said.

The lobbying group A Better Balance, which focuses its efforts on getting paid leave laws passed, praised the legislation Tuesday.

"In this time of crisis, the new law will help New Yorkers to follow New York State's and the CDC's recommendations to protect their own health and the health of their loved ones, while also protecting the health of the public as a whole," the group's co-founders Sherry Leiwant and Dina Bakst said in a statement.

Seven other states are considering bills that address the pandemic's impact on workers.

New Jersey lawmakers are weighing a bill to expand the state's earned sick leave law, which lets workers accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year, to cover workers during quarantine periods, according to an analysis of the bill by Jackson Lewis PC. The law would take effect immediately upon passage.

Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. If S.B. 282 passes, Kentucky would join New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, California, Arizona, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Nevada and D.C. in putting a paid sick leave law on the books. The laws are in effect in all states except Maine, whose law becomes effective in 2021.

California, Maryland, Hawaii, Minnesota and Washington are also considering bills that enhance worker protections amid the pandemic.

Several cities have addressed coronavirus' impact on workers as well. The Philadelphia Mayor's Office of Labor announced Monday that workers covered under the city's sick leave law can use their sick time in a public health emergency. And San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Monday that the city is setting aside $10 million to fund five additional paid sick days for workers during the pandemic.

--Editing by Alanna Weissman.

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