Employers have been grappling with what to do about COVID vaccination in their workplace. Should they create employee policies requiring it? Should they encourage it? MP’s HR services team notes that while there is no simple solution for all employers, requiring COVID vaccination is risky. Doing so may make it difficult for an employer to remain ADA compliant, and could mean lawsuits or fines. Many HR providers have suggested that one of the best HR strategies would be to educate employees on the vaccine. Some states are enacting laws that mandate paid leave for workers who take time to go get vaccinated or feel sick after receiving the vaccine. Below are the latest on states that are mandating paid leave for COVID vaccination—and what employers should do if their own state mandates it.
New York Laws Pertaining to COVID Vaccination Time:
Public and private employers must pay their employees for up to four hours of paid time off for each COVID vaccination (totaling eight hours). This new law sunsets on December 31, 2022. The employer must pay the employee at their usual rate of pay and they cannot require employees to use other available leave, such as sick leave or vacation time, instead of this allotted paid time for their vaccination. Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against any employee who exercises their rights under this law.
California Law Pertaining to COVID Vaccination Time:
California has resurrected statewide COVID supplemental paid sick leave, which expired by the end of 2020. The legislation, which began retroactively as of January 1, 2020, expires September 30, 2021. It allows employees to take this paid sick leave to (among other reasons) get a COVID vaccine, or to rest if they are experiencing complications or a reaction to the COVID vaccine. Employees who are not able to work or telework for any of the reasons detailed in the legislation will qualify for the paid leave. Employees don’t need to have worked for any length of time to be eligible. The amount the employee can be paid is capped at $511 per day ($5,110 in aggregate for their total leave). This legislation is retroactive, so employers may need to make payments retroactively. If they do, they must make these payments on or before the payday for the next full pay period after the request of the employee. Employers must provide employees with notice of the law. The new law states the Labor Commissioner’s office will release a model notice within 7 days of the passing of the bill. Employers will also need to provide employees with written notice of their available leave balances.
What employers should do:
New York and California employers should update their policies accordingly. They should provide notice to their employees and designate somebody to handle leave requests. Employers will also need to decide whether they will require proof of vaccination, especially after considering job-related and business necessity, privacy, HIPAA, and ADA compliance concerns. As California and New York are frequently harbingers of bigger movements in law, employers should be ready for their own state to enact similar laws. MP’s HR Services team will continue to monitor laws that are enacted in other states. Employers should check back with MP’s webinars, blog, and social media for more updates.
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