The New York State Department of Labor (NYDOL) issued new guidance this month for employers regarding COVID-19 sick leave. As you should be aware, New York employers are required to provide paid and/or unpaid sick leave to employees subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19 (in addition to paid sick leave under state law).

The guidance answers the following four questions:

  1. How many times may an employee be eligible for New York COVID-19 sick leave?

Employees may be eligible to take New York COVID-19 sick leave as many as three times if they are subject to three orders of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19, but only if the second and/or third quarantine or isolation order is based on a positive diagnostic test result for COVID-19.

  1. What is an employer’s obligation if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 after returning to work from a period of quarantine or isolation?

An employee who returns to work following a period of mandatory quarantine or isolation, but then subsequently tests positive for COVID-19, cannot report to work, automatically is subject to a mandatory order of isolation, and is entitled to New York COVID-19 sick leave (again). The employee must provide documentation of the positive test result from a licensed medical provider or testing facility (unless the employer gave the employee the test).

  1. What is an employer’s obligation if an employee continues to test positive for COVID-19 after the employee’s quarantine or isolation period has ended?

Employees are not required to take a follow-up test to discontinue their quarantine or isolation. However, if an employee does follow-up testing and continues to test positive for COVID-19 after the employee’s quarantine or isolation period has concluded, the employee is prohibited from returning to work. The employee must provide documentation of the positive test result from a licensed medical provider or testing facility (unless the employer gave the employee the test).

  1. What is an employer’s obligation if an employee is exposed or potentially exposed to COVID-19 but not (yet) subject to an order of quarantine or isolation?

Employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to COVID-19 and required by their employer to remain out of work must be paid their regular rate of pay until: (a) they are permitted by their employer to return to work; or (b) they become subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation. If employees become subject to such an order, then the employer is required to provide them with COVID-19 sick leave.