The New York State Capitol in Albany is seen on...

The New York State Capitol in Albany is seen on Dec. 14, 2020. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — A 2020 law that has provided a worker with as many as 14 paid sick days when they or their child contracts COVID-19 may soon be repealed.

New York is the final state to still have a COVID-19 paid sick leave benefit for workers, and Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to repeal the law immediately as part of her proposed 2024-25 state budget.

Hochul cited the change in guidance from health agencies from mandating isolation and testing for many New Yorkers at the height of the pandemic to the post-pandemic role of advising anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus to stay home and avoid contact with others. If the law is repealed, workers would have to use their own allotted sick time to stay home.

The Senate’s Democratic majority favors repeal of the law, but proposes an exception for health care workers at licensed hospitals and facilities.

“This proposal will keep our health care workers protected under current (federal Centers for Disease Control) guidelines while also ensuring the front lines at our health care facilities are properly covered to best serve their communities' needs,” Senate spokesman Mike Murphy said Wednesday.

Employers have sought the end of the costly mandate since the federal health emergency ended May 11, 2023, and complained to legislators about abuse of the law by some workers. The law is scheduled to continue until July 31.

New Yorkers continue to suffer severe symptoms and death from COVID-19, with 781 people hospitalized this week and 55 deaths blamed on COVID-19 in the first week of the month. The state Health Department also continues to urge anyone who tests positive for the virus to “stay home and talk to your health care provider about treatment.”

The Democratic-led Assembly has rejected Hochul’s proposal without comment, but the issue can still be part of closed-door budget negotiations. The budget deal is due by April 1.

Matt Cohen, president of the Long Island Association, on Wednesday supported Hochul’s effort to repeal the law and the Senate’s modification. Cohen said the budget bills are a “common-sense approach that is in alignment with the new guidance from the CDC and will provide employers with financial relief and more certainty running their businesses.”

There’s no estimate of how much the paid leave measure has provided employees or cost employers.

The law requires paychecks to continue uninterrupted if a worker or his or her minor child contracts the virus. The worker’s job is also protected until he or she returns to work.

Under the law, governments and schools or large employers must provide at least 14 days of paid COVID sick leave when an employee or his or her child tests positive for COVID-19 while under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation by state or local health agencies. Most smaller employees would have to provide at least five paid sick days.

Employers can’t require a worker to use his or her traditional sick days first and the COVID-19 sick leave doesn’t count against an employee’s allotted paid sick days. Reports of violations can be investigated by the state Labor Department.

A worker can qualify for the paid sick leave three times. Documentation from a physician or testing facility that the worker tested positive for COVID-19 is required only for the second and third leave.

The state Business Council in a statement said the state’s requirement of 40 to 56 hours paid sick leave is enough now that the pandemic passed.

“We support the governor’s proposal to sunset the extended COVID sick leave program for all,” said Patrick Bailey of the Business Council. “From the federal and state emergency cancellations to the latest CDC guidelines, it seems appropriate that we get back to following the paid time off policies in place pre-pandemic.”

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