As COVID vaccinations continue to roll out across New York State, many employees are wondering what their rights are with regard to getting time off to receive the vaccine. According to the COVID Vaccine Health Website for New York, approximately 36% of the state’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, with 23% already having a full dose. These percentages will continue to rise. While many employees are eager to get their vaccinations, some questions still linger, such as whether or not they can substitute their paid leave time, or what is the maximum amount of time they can take off to receive the vaccine.
On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law that grants New York State employees paid leave time to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The law grants both public and private employees the right to take up to 4 hours off per vaccine dose, or 8 hours total. Employers must pay employees at their normal rate for these hours, and the leave time cannot be deducted from any other benefit time, including paid sick leave. The only exception is if the employee is in a union, where the collective bargaining agreement establishes different guidelines for leave. Under no circumstances can an employee be penalized, threatened, or fired for choosing to receive or request time off to be vaccinated for COVID-19.
The law became effective on March 12, 2021 and will remain in effect until December 31, 2021. This has led to some confusion for employees who have already received one or both doses of the vaccine. Unfortunately, the law does not provide retroactive compensation for doses obtained before March 12. However, be sure to check with your employer as there is nothing stated in the law that prevents employers from granting retroactive benefits.
When requesting time off for receiving the vaccine, it is important to keep in mind that employers can require prior notice. Furthermore, while New York State employers are advised to be mindful of employee confidentiality, the law does not guarantee leave without adequate proof of vaccination. Upon receiving your vaccine, you will be provided some type of record, which you may then present to your employer.
Since there is no precedent for COVID-19 and the resulting impacts on employees, it is important to know your rights when it comes to receiving the vaccination. If you have been denied paid leave, or if you have been retaliated against for exercising your rights under this law, it is crucial that you seek experienced counsel.