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Politics and Government
Stay up to date with the latest news on the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. We'll post regular updates from NPR and regional news from the WRVO newsroom. You can also find updates on our live blog.

New state paid leave law could help NY slow spread of COVID-19

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For the first time, most New York employees now have access to paid sick leave. 

Effective this month, employees can start accessing the paid time off they have accrued to tend to their own illness, to take care of a sick family member, or to address safety needs if they or their family members have been the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking. Even small businesses are required to offer at least 40 hours a year of paid leave so long as the company has a net income of $1 million or more.

Esta Bigler, director of Cornell University's Labor and Employment Law Program, said this development comes just in time.

"This is really a very important step forward in fighting COVID and in fighting any other kind of illness," Bigler said.

Businesses were previously required to offer paid leave only for those who were taking time off for a newborn, newly adopted child, or to tend to a family member with a serious health condition. And under the state's COVID-19 paid leave passed last year, only those who were under quarantine or isolation orders were eligible for paid leave and related job protections.

Now that the federal COVID-19 paid leave protections have expired, Bigler said it's critical that New Yorkers have been given the opportunity to stay home if they are symptomatic.

"We know that this is transmitted person to person and so if someone is sick and feels that they can't stay home because they will lose their job and don’t have pay for being able to stay home, then they won’t and then they come to work spreading whatever it is they have, whether it’s COVID or it's the flu," Bigler said. "So, it really provides a lot of protections for workers, for employers because employers certainly don’t want their workforces to get sick, and for the public."

Under the new law how much paid time off people are eligible to take depends on the size of the business and hours worked.