In March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new law in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring covered employers to provide job protection and/or employer-paid sick leave benefits to employees under a mandatory/precautionary order of quarantine/isolation by any government entity due to COVID-19. The law also expands certain definitions under the state’s existing Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Statutory Disability (DBL) insurance programs to provide employees with partial wage replacement while on unpaid, job-protected leave under the new law. The state’s Department of Labor (DOL) has also issued guidance for using PFL to care for a minor child who is under quarantine.
This Help Center article provides a high-level overview of some of the provisions of these new requirements and information about submitting PFL and DBL claims with Justworks. We recommend that you review all of the DOL’s guidance regarding COVID-19-related leave carefully and consult with your counsel regarding the impact of these and other COVID-19-related laws on your business.
Who is eligible to claim benefits under the new law?
Covered employers are only required to provide employer-paid sick leave under this new law to employees who are subject to an order of quarantine or isolation from any governmental entity authorized to issue such an order as a result of COVID-19, including the State of New York, the Department of Health, or any local board of health. Likewise, employees must meet these eligibility requirements to claim PFL or DBL under the new law. As described further below, employees may also be able to use PFL to care for a minor child under quarantine.
What makes employees ineligible for benefits under the new law?
Employers are not required to provide employer-paid sick leave benefits to employees who are able to work remotely during their order of quarantine without interruptions to their ability to perform their job duties. Likewise, employees who are able to work remotely will not qualify for PFL or DBL under the new law.
Moreover, as per the DOL guidance, benefits are also unavailable to employees who are employed by a business that has shut down as a result of any other guidance from or requirement by any government, or to employees who electively self-quarantine without an order. PFL and DBL claimants must have an order of quarantine or isolation to submit a claim.
What is an order of quarantine or isolation, and where can you get one?
New York State Department of Health can subject citizens to orders of mandatory isolation, mandatory quarantine, and precautionary quarantine. These legal orders can be given for any reason deemed necessary by the NYS Department of Health but primarily are given to citizens who have tested positive for COVID-19, or are asymptomatic but have recently interacted with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
You can find more information on what documentation a licensed medical provider must include to obtain an order of quarantine or isolation at this DOL resource. After a claimant has the required documents, they can obtain one by getting in contact with their local Department of Health.
What are the leave requirements under the new law?
Employers must provide job-protected, unpaid leave for the duration of an employee’s quarantine or isolation order.
Additionally, depending on the size and/or income of the company, employers may also have to provide employer-paid sick leave as well.
Leave Requirements & Benefit Entitlements
Calculating PFL/DBL benefit amounts
If an employee is eligible to receive both COVID-19-specific PFL and DBL benefits, they may receive up to 60% of their average weekly earnings, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $840.70 from PFL. Employees may also receive DBL benefits to match their average weekly earnings, up to a maximum of $2,043.92. Employees cannot receive more than 100% of their regular pay (from all sources) in any given week.
You can find more information, including an example of wage replacement benefits, at this page from New York State.
What if an employee’s child is subjected to an order of quarantine or isolation?
If the employee’s minor dependent child is subject to an order of quarantine or isolation, and the employee is unable to work (including working remotely), the employee may be eligible to take NY PFL during the child’s order of quarantine or isolation. You can read more on benefits under this scenario here.
Employees must have already met the normal length-of-service requirements for NY PFL in order to file for this benefit, and this benefit is only available if their employer has fewer than 100 employees.
How does an employee file a claim?
If an eligible employee wishes to file a claim, the worksite employer should reach out to the Justworks support team, noting that an employee would like to file for COVID-19-related New York PFL/DBL benefits. Justworks will be able to provide the admin with the claim form. Once that form is filled out, employees can file their claim directly with MetLife. Please keep in mind that it's important to use the claim form that we provide, that has Justworks information pre-filled, instead of the one publicly available on the New York State website.
Please be aware that once a claimant files a claim, Justworks or MetLife may need to contact their employer to confirm the company’s 2019 net income in order to determine benefits eligibility under the new law.
Does New York’s stay-at-home order qualify as a quarantine or isolation order for the purposes of this benefit?
No. While the state did close all non-essential businesses, these benefits are meant for people who are under an order of mandatory or precautionary quarantine or isolation (or are providing care to a minor who is under such order), as issued by the state of New York, the Department of Health, local board of health, or any government entity duly authorized to issue such order due to COVID-19.
When can employees apply for COVID-19-related NY PFL or DBL?
Employees can file as soon as they become eligible for the benefit. There is no waiting period for either benefit once employees are eligible. Employees cannot be required to exhaust pre-existing PTO or sick leave to cover any part of their quarantine leave.
Are these benefit payments taxable?
Yes. Taxes on mandatory employer-paid sick leave will be deducted as with other wages in Justworks. However, taxes won’t automatically be withheld from PFL or DBL payments. Once a claim is approved, employees can contact their MetLife claims specialist and request a voluntary tax withholding be applied to their payments if they like.
What do employees do if I don’t have an order of quarantine?
If your local Department of Health can’t provide you with an order at this time, you should provide MetLife with documentation from the Licensed Medical Provider that treated you or your minor child for COVID-19 when you file. Local health departments must provide the requested orders within 30 days. Once your order is provided by the state, you should share it with your MetLife claims specialist.
It’s possible that employees may also be eligible for leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). To learn more, please visit our related Help Center articles:
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.