On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law an act requiring all New York employers, regardless of size or industry, to provide employees with paid COVID-19 vaccination leave of up to four hours per injection, effective immediately.

The law, which amends the New York’s Civil Service Law (public employees) as well as the New York Labor Law (private employees), mandates that employers provide a “sufficient period of time,” up to four hours for each injection, to be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay. It prohibits employers from charging the time against any other leave to which the employee is entitled, such as paid sick leave or vacation time.  It also bars employers from discriminating against or retaliating against any employee who takes or requests paid COVID-19 vaccination leave, or otherwise exercises their rights under the law.

The law, which expires on December 31, 2022, is silent as to any retroactive effect, i.e., whether it applies to time taken for vaccinations before the law’s effective date.  It also does not clarify whether or how employers may request documentation from employees seeking this leave.  The State may issue additional guidance to address some of these issues, and we anticipate that, among other things, employers will be permitted to request some form of proof confirming that the time-off was related to getting vaccinated.

Employers in New York are encouraged to update existing policies to ensure that they comply with their obligations under the law.  Employers should also train supervisory employees on this right, as well as the relevant non-discrimination and retaliation provisions, and prepare them for how to handle requests for paid COVID-19 vaccination leave.