On August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published updated guidelines loosening its recommendations for quarantining and social distancing. This new guidance “acknowledges that the pandemic is not over, but also helps us move to a point where COVID-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives.”
It is possible that the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will release guidance in response to the recent federal updates. Below are some practical answers to questions that these guidelines raise for organizations.
Will employees still be required to quarantine following COVID-19 exposure?
The short answer is no. Although unvaccinated individuals were previously required to self-isolate for five days to monitor for symptoms, the recent CDC guidance has eliminated this requirement for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status. Instead, it is now recommended that individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19, but have not tested positive and do not have symptoms, should wear a high-quality face mask for ten days when around others (such as in the workplace) and should be tested five or more days after exposure.
How long will employees need to quarantine following a positive COVID-19 test result?
If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the individual should self-isolate. Employees may return to work after five days so long as symptoms have improved, and the individual has been without a fever for at least 24 hours.
Upon return to work following a COVID-19 infection, an employee should wear a face mask until at least day 10 following exposure. However, employers need to keep in mind that individuals with immunocompromising conditions, or those who suffered moderate to severe illness from COVID-19, may be instructed by their health care providers to isolate at home for ten days or longer.
What COVID-19 vaccination leave laws remain in place?
Leave laws with respect to COVID-19 vaccine leave vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction:
- New York State: Governor Kathy Hochul recently amended the New York Labor Law relating to paid leave for COVID-19 vaccination, extending employer obligations another year. These obligations, which will now be in place until December 31, 2023, require private employers to provide employees with paid leave “for a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours,” for each dose of an authorized COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters. This leave is intended to provide leave in addition to other leave laws, and cannot be charged against any other leave accruals.
- New York City: In addition to state obligations, New York City’s Earned Safe and Sick Time law requires employers to provide paid leave to employees for the vaccination of an employee’s child. Similar to the state law, the City permits up to four hours of leave for this purpose. However, unlike the state law, the City law allows this time to be spent for the purpose of accompanying the child to receive the vaccine, and also “to care for the child due to side effects from the vaccine.” This law is currently set to expire December 31, 2022.
- Connecticut: There are currently no laws that require Connecticut employers to provide paid leave for the purpose of COVID-19 vaccination.
- New Jersey: The Earned Sick Leave law requires New Jersey employers to provide employees with up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year, and permits employees to use sick leave for the purpose of COVID-19 vaccination, including for the time necessary to travel to their appointment and to recover from the side effects of the vaccine.
Do employers still have obligations under the HERO Act?
As of March 17, 2022, COVID-19 is no longer designated as an airborne infectious disease for purposes of the New York HERO Act and employers are no longer required to implement their workforce safety plans. This does not, however, eliminate all employer obligations under the HERO Act.
Employers are still required to:
- Maintain an airborne infectious disease exposure prevention plan.
- Provide written notice of the plan to all employees within 30 days of creating the plan, and distribute to new employees upon hire.
- Post the plan prominently in all worksites where employees may view it.
Employers with 10 or more employees must also permit employees to establish a joint employer and employee workplace safety committee.
If you have any questions about employer COVID-19 obligations, please reach out to us.