New York Enacts Paid Vaccination Leave Law

March 19, 2021

A New York law requires employers to provide employees up to four hours of paid leave per COVID-19 vaccine injection but leaves a number of important questions unanswered.

The new law is effective immediately and expires on December 31, 2022.

The law mandates that:

  • Employers must provide paid leaves of absence to employees for “a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours per vaccine injection,” to obtain the vaccine.

  • Employers cannot require employees to use existing sick leave for this.

  • Regular rate of pay must be paid for any hours of vaccination leave.

  • Retaliation is prohibited against employees who request or take vaccination leave.

  • Where employees are granted vaccination leave rights by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the CBA controls, but only where the CBA references the new provision of the New York Labor Law.

Key questions left unanswered:  The law does not explain whether employers can ask for proof of vaccination; whether employees are entitled to leave if they have sufficient time to receive a vaccine during non-working hours; or whether employees will be entitled to paid leave if government agencies recommend a booster shot before the law expires.  Finally, the law does not contemplate whether employees who have already used sick leave or paid sick time under New York State or New York City leave laws to obtain the vaccine might be entitled to reinstatement of that time.

Outlook:  We expect guidance from the New York State Department of Labor soon, but in the meantime, New York employers should take steps to come into compliance including updating leave policies, training managers on new leave entitlements, and coordinating communications to employees seeking vaccination leave.