WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET SICK, OR IF MY FAMILY MEMBER GETS SICK?
Currently, anyone in NYS can get a COVID-19 test for any reason. Testing sites in certain counties are limited to those who have been referred by contact tracers or who are symptomatic, but testing by private physicians and testing run by the NYS Department of Health is available without an excuse or referral needed. However, as of September 1, 2020, private insurance companies may not cover the cost of such testing unless it is ordered by a physician. Thus, if you need a test because a contact tracer has told you that you were in contact with a confirmed positive case, or if you need a test as a condition of your schooling or employment, your health insurer may not cover it after September 1. Contact your health insurance provider for more information. Tests remain free at testing sites run by the county departments of health or the NYS Department of Health. Governor Cuomo also ordered insurance companies to waive copays for telemedicine options until June 18th, which allow you to describe your symptoms to a doctor via video chat, telephone, or Internet in order to be diagnosed. Some insurance providers are extending the waiver of cost sharing for telemedicine past June 18th. Please contact your treating physician or your insurance company for information about telemedicine options.
Governor Cuomo has ordered that all public employees receive two weeks of paid sick leave during the COVID-19 outbreak if they are subject to any mandatory or precautionary order of isolation or quarantine. This will allow you to stay home from work and continue to receive a salary if you are ill, or if you are told to stay in quarantine or isolation because you tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to it. This sick leave applies in addition to any accrued paid sick leave that you might have already earned. If you are sick or under a mandatory or precautionary order of isolation or quarantine, and need to stay home, please contact your supervisor, human resources manager, or union representative for details regarding this policy.
On March 18, 2020, Governor Cuomo passed a bill that mandates paid sick leave and access to Paid Family Leave and Short Term Disability Leave benefits for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or who is placed under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation (generally this will happen if you are exposed to COVID-19 or test positive for it, even if you do not have symptoms yet). This law went into effect immediately. If your employer has fewer than 10 employees and a net income of less than $1 million per year, you are entitled to unpaid sick leave for the duration of the quarantine or isolation. You are also entitled to Paid Family Leave Benefits (currently 60% of your average weekly wage for up to 8 weeks, up to a maximum of $840.70 per week) and NYS Short Term Disability benefits. If your employer has between 11 and 99 employees, or if your employer has 10 or fewer employees but a net income of more than $1,000,000 per year, your employer must give you 5 days of paid sick leave if you test positive for COVID-19 or are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation. After those 5 days of paid sick leave, you are entitled to Paid Family Leave benefits and NYS Short Term Disability benefits. If your employer has 100 or more employees, your employer must give you 14 days of paid sick leave if you test positive for COVID-19 or are under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation.
If you take leave for these reasons, you are required to be restored to your current job position at your current rate of pay and benefits upon your return to work. This law does have a few important caveats. If you became ill within 2 weeks after travel to a country that was designated as a Level 2 or Level 3 travel hazard because of the CVOID-19 outbreak, you are only entitled to unpaid leave for the duration of your quarantine or isolation. If you voluntarily travel to a state that is subject to New York’s travel advisory (see the travel section of this blog for more information), you are not entitled to any Paid Family Leave or Short Term Disability benefits for the duration of your 14-day quarantine upon returning. Further, if you are able to work remotely and have been deemed asymptomatic (not showing symptoms as per a medical professional), you are not eligible for these leave provisions.
The Federal government has also passed a bill mandating paid sick leave and expanding FMLA provisions, which goes into effect on April 2nd. Family Leave and Medical Act protections for COVID-19 specific issues are now available to all employees of companies with fewer than 500 employees (regular FMLA is available to employees of companies with at least 50 employees). Also, employees need only be employed for 30 days to be covered by COVID-specific FMLA provisions. Employees are entitled to 12 weeks of leave to care for an ill family member or for a child whose school is closed due to COVID-19. The first 10 days of this leave is unpaid, although workers may use their accrued paid time off from their employers during these 10 days. After the first 10 days, the employer must pay the employee at 2/3 of their regular rate of pay, limited to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate per employee. Part time employees’ “regular rate of pay” is determined by the average hours worked during the past 6 months, or by the average hours they would normally be scheduled to work if they were hired less than 6 months ago. Employees must be returned to their same job duties and rate of pay for employers with 25 or more employees; however employers with fewer than 25 employees can apply for an exemption from this requirement if the employee’s position no longer exists.
The Federal law also provides paid mandatory sick leave for employees of companies of 500 or fewer people. Employees are entitled to this paid sick leave if they are subject to a government quarantine or isolation; if they are symptomatic and advised to self-quarantine by a health professional; if they test positive for COVID-19 or are seeking treatment for symptoms; if they are caring for an individual who has COVID-19, is experiencing symptoms, or is subject to a quarantine or isolation order. Employees are entitled to 80 hours of fully paid sick leave if they are subject to quarantine or isolation, if they are symptomatic and advised to self-quarantine by a health professional, if they test positive for COVID-19 or are seeking treatment for symptoms. They are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave at 2/3 of their regular pay if they are caring for someone who has tested positive or is subject to a quarantine/isolation order, or if they are caring for a child whose school or child care has closed due to COVID-19. Paid sick leave wages are limited to $511 per day ($5,110 aggregate) for personal use and to $200 per day ($2,000 total) for those caring for another person. Currently, certain portions of the Federal expanded FMLA are set to expire on December 31, 2020. Contact your business’ human resources department for further information.