Chances are, by now, you’re well-versed in the positives of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. From health benefits to social conveniences, many advantages come with being vaccinated… including, sometimes, benefits at work. Your employer may, at the employer’s discretion, hand out incentives to its employees who get a COVID-19 vaccine. One thing that is not optional for employers, however, is giving employees the paid time off they need to deal with getting the shot(s) and also deal with the side effects that can sometimes arise after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. As with any instance where you’ve been harmed by workplace discrimination or retaliation, be sure to contact a knowledgeable New York discrimination lawyer to get the answers you need to the questions you have.
Newsday recently took a look at both employer-mandated and employer-encouraged vaccinations. Generally, the law allows employers to incentivize or even require vaccinations (and terminate employees who don’t get the shot.)
That’s not true if a specific employee has a legitimate religion-based or disability-based reason for avoiding the vaccine. Even then, the employer may still be allowed to demand vaccination if accommodating the employee’s need to avoid the vaccine would impose an “undue hardship” on that specific employer.
Whether or not an employer has demanded that its employees get vaccinated, New York has some new laws in place that deal with an inevitable side-effect of the vaccination process that, for some workers, was a deal-breaker: missing time from work. Section 196-C of the Labor Law says that every employee is entitled to paid leave in the amount of a “sufficient period of time” to get vaccinated. That period of time is capped at four hours. For those whose vaccination occurs in two separate shots that take place on two separate days, the cap is eight hours total.
The one exception to that cap is if the workers and the employer have a collective bargaining agreement that calls for a greater period of leave. In that case, the CBA controls.
So, what happens if the vaccine makes me ill temporarily?
Of course, simply getting the shot is not the only event that can lead to an absence from work. For some people, the side effects of the vaccine (especially the second shot,) are quite strong and make them too unwell to attend work on the day of or day after their shot.
To address this potential problem, the state Department of Labor issued a Guidance document in early June. That document clarified that workers who experience side effects from their COVID-19 vaccine were entitled to use their accrued sick leave to cover the time at work they missed due to post-vaccination side effects.
Even with all of this clear information, including FAQs and Guidance documents from the state, there may still be employers who fail to follow the law. Know that when you exercise your rights under New York’s COVID-19 vaccine leave statutes, the law treats that much the same as when you exercise your rights under other leave laws, like the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and New York Paid Family Leave Law, and New York Paid Sick Leave Law.
So, if you attempt to take paid leave to get a COVID-19 vaccine, or take paid sick leave to deal with post-shot side effects, and your employer takes an adverse action against you because of that leave you took, then you potentially have a viable claim against your employer for retaliation. These adverse actions can include things like firing you, demoting you, suspending you, reducing your hours, reducing your pay, or threatening to take action against you. If your employer does that, the employer may have engaged in conduct that is both a violation of New York State law and New York City law.
Whether you are dealing with something like illegal retaliation based on your exercising your COVID-19 leave rights or something like harassment or discrimination, you need a skilled attorney. An experienced advocate will have a thorough knowledge of all of the law’s nuances and details, whether that law is old or new, and can give you answers you can confidently rely on. Look to the New York family and medical leave attorneys at Phillips & Associates to be the diligent advocate you need. We have many years of handling cases just like yours. We’re here to provide answers and advice you can count on and, when necessary, deliver the zealous litigation representation you deserve. Contact us online or at (212) 248-7431 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and find out more about what we can do to help you.