As we previously reported, on March 18, 2020, New York State passed a law providing job protection and benefits to certain employees quarantined or isolated due to exposure to and/or infection with COVID-19. On January 20, the New York State Department of Labor issued supplemental guidance clarifying some important points for employers about complying with the leave’s requirements.

Since the Leave was enacted, a frequent question from employers has been whether employees are entitled to use the Leave multiple times – e.g., if they are subject to mandatory quarantine or isolation on more than one occasion. The guidance addresses this question by confirming that an employee shall not qualify for more than three quarantine/isolation orders. In other words, an employee will only be eligible to use the Leave three times. The guidance, however, does not specify whether this limitation applies on an annual basis.

Additionally, the guidance sets forth the following protocols for returning employees to work after completing a period of quarantine/isolation under the Leave:

  1. Employees are not required to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work (except for nursing home staff);
  2. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 after returning to work, they must not report to work;
  3. If an employee continues to test positive for COVID-19 after finishing a period of quarantine/isolation, but before returning to work, they must not report to work; and
  4. Employees meeting the criteria of scenarios two or three above will be deemed subject to a mandatory order of isolation and must be provided with the Leave, regardless of whether the employee already received such Leave. However, the employee must submit documentation from a medical provider or testing facility to attest that they tested positive for COVID-19 (except where the employer is the entity that conducted the test)

The guidance also states that employers that require an employee to remain out of work due to actual or potential exposure to COVID-19 (where the employee is not otherwise subject to a quarantine/isolation order) must continue paying the employee their regular rate of pay until the employee is permitted to return to work. If the employee subsequently becomes subject to an isolation/quarantine order, they will then be eligible for the benefits provided under the Leave.

Employers should ensure that they are aware of the job protections and benefits provided for by the Leave and should immediately ensure their compliance with its requirements, based on this new guidance. If you have any questions about your obligations under the Leave, Reed Smith’s experienced Labor & Employment Group is ready to speak with you.