EMPLOYMENT LAW NEWS

COVID-19: Colorado, New York Combating Coronavirus with Emergency Paid Sick Leave

By Kris Janisch
Published March 24, 2020

COVID-19: Colorado, New York Combating Coronavirus with Emergency Paid Sick Leave

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country — cases have now been confirmed in all 50 states — other states could follow in the footsteps of Colorado and New York.  

As the federal government passed sweeping emergency paid leave in response to the coronavirus, Colorado and New York State have done so themselves. Both have recently taken steps that require some employers to provide their workers with paid sick leave they deal with the impacts of COVID-19.

Colorado passed its bill earlier this month. New York State did last week.

Meanwhile, other states are working to help employers through guidance and education. New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law covers public health emergencies; its department of labor has printable fact sheets. Oregon has done the same. Also, Philadelphia has expanded its paid sick leave to include coronavirus-related issues, as has Seattle.

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country — cases have now been confirmed in all 50 states — other states could follow in the footsteps of Colorado and New York.

Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced the emergency rules on March 11. Two days later, the state reported its first death from COVID-19.

Employers in select industries are now required to provide up to four days of paid sick leave for workers with flu-like symptoms who are being tested for the coronavirus. The industries are:

  • Leisure and hospitality
  • Food services
  • Childcare
  • Education, including transportation, food service, and related work at educational establishments
  • Home health, if working with elderly, disabled, ill, or otherwise high-risk individuals
  • Nursing homes
  • Community living facilities

When taking paid sick leave, employees will receive their regular rate of pay or their daily average for the past month.

The emergency rule was initially to be effective for 30 days following March 11, though it may be longer as the state is under a state of emergency.

Related – Coronavirus Concerns: What Employers Should Know

However, the paid sick leave requirement is not in addition to sick leave an employer already provides. And should an employee need more than four days off from work to recover, that time will not be covered.

Also, if a worker receives a negative test result before the four days are up, the paid sick leave ends.

“Colorado is acting swiftly to contain the spread of this virus. These steps are important for individuals who work with vulnerable populations like older Coloradans and people with underlying health issues. When workers who might have Coronavirus lack paid sick leave, it poses a great risk to our ability to protect the public,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement. “People want to do right by their fellow Coloradans and stay home when they are ill. But they shouldn’t be forced between doing what’s best for our community or missing rent. I am asking the entire private sector of Colorado to voluntarily offer paid sick leave pending coronavirus testing results so that we can collectively do our part to contain the spread of the virus.”

Meanwhile, the state created an FAQ page that outlines notices and documentation procedures, as well as further definitions of the qualifying industries.

Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave in New York State

New York State’s paid sick leave bill is now in effect.

The measure differs from Colorado’s. It guarantees job protection and pay for New York State employees subject to quarantine from state agencies. There are different levels of requirements by employer type. From the governor’s website:

  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income less than $1 million will provide job protection for the duration of the quarantine order and guarantee their workers access to paid family leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000
  • Employers with 11-99 employees and employers with 10 or fewer employees and a net income greater than $1 million will provide at least five days of paid sick leave, job protection for the duration of the quarantine order, and guarantee their workers access to paid family leave and disability benefits (short-term disability) for the period of quarantine including wage replacement for their salaries up to $150,000
  • Employers with 100 or more employees, as well as all public employers (regardless of number of employees), will provide at least 14 days of paid sick leave and guarantee job protection for the duration of the quarantine order

“This is an extraordinary time in this nation’s history, and it will go down in the history books as one of those moments of true crisis and confusion,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “So my message to New Yorkers is this: Be a little bit more sensitive, understand the stress, understand the fear, be a little bit more loving, a little bit more compassionate, a little bit more comforting, a little bit more cooperative. We are going to get through it and we are going to get through it together.”

Employment Law and the Coronavirus

From remote work to reduced hours of operation and even outright closures, employers and lawmakers across the country are taking steps to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

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With the U.S. Senate poised to enact emergency paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, employers must take extra precautions to maintain compliance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Look for continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic on Employment Law News.

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