RAQs: Recently Asked Questions

Topic: Paid sick leave for COVID quarantine - 12/08/2021
The library (school district public library without a union or a bargaining agreement and less tha...
Posted: Wednesday, December 8, 2021 Permalink

MEMBER QUESTION

The library (school district public library without a union or a bargaining agreement and less than 50 employees) offers paid sick leave for most employees. However, based on what we have learn we have paid people, without it coming off of their earned sick time, if they are told to quarantine because they have been exposed to the virus. Does the same hold true for someone who is out sick because they have the virus? 
 
I have looked at the Ask a Lawyer FAQs, the various federal and state sites and issues of the HR Specialist Employment newsletter and do not see a clear answer.

WNYLRC ATTORNEY'S RESPONSE

I can offer a simple answer, and a complicated answer. 

 

Here is the simple answer: 

 

 

  • The current requirement of a public employer is 14 days of PAID leave for quarantine/absence due to COVID-19.   

  • private employer with under 10 employees must provide unpaid sick leave for the entire period of quarantine, during which time the employee can apply for Paid Family Leave benefits ("PFLA").  

  • A private employer with between 11 and 99 employees, or with fewer employees, but at least $1 million in annual revenue, must provide 5 days of paid sick leave, after which the employee can apply for PFLA for whatever time they need to be out. 

  • For employers with more than 100 employees, the employer must give 14 days. 

 

In all instances, the time out for COVID must not count against other accrued sick leave. 

 

And that's it. 

 

The complicated answer 

 

As you can see, the obligations under the Covid-19 Paid Sick Leave Law depend on the type and (if private) the size of the employer. 

 

So, is your library a "public employer?"   

 

The definition of "public employer" in this law is broader than in many other labor-related laws, so unless your library's HR and employment arrangements are 100% separate from those of the local municipality or sponsoring district, it is wise to consider this applicable (or get it in writing from your lawyer that it isn't). 

 

Since the library that submitted the question is offering paid sick leave for "most" employees--which means there is a different approach for different employees--it sounds like they have decided the library is not subject to Labor Law 196-b (New York's new "Sick Leave Law"), which applies to only private employers.   

 

This issue is not an atypical one in New York's "Library land."  Does your library use comp time instead of overtime?  That is an option available only to government employers. Does your library use the federal rather than the state minimum wage?  Only a government employer can do that.  Does your library not have to follow the Wage Theft Prevention Act?  Employers are only exempt if they are a government employer. The list goes on and on.  

 

[NOTE: A nice exception to this dichotomy is worker's compensation for work-related injury.  EVERYONE has to pay into worker's comp; you could say it is something New York employers all have in common]. 

 

The bottom line on this "complicated" answer? Make sure your library has clarity about which employment-related laws it decides that apply to it before it implements a COVID-19 Paid Leave policy based on them. And when in doubt, have a lawyer examine the compensation and other aspects of your library's employment arrangements to make the decision that is most consistent with its other employment-related practices. 

 

Thanks for a great question. And if this "public/private" employer issue has you flummoxed, here is a short poem to help out: 

 

Library Labor Law Chanty 

 

What law governs at my library?

What labor laws must we abide?

What legal authorities preside?

 

Sorry, there's no simple rule

Be you association, town, or school

But here's a few comforting rhymes

To get you through confusing times:

 

An oath of office is required

When a public library director's hired
Civil service law protects employees

Except at association libraries

 

Must my library pay state minimum wage?

YES (unless only the FLSA is your gauge)

Do we have to pay overtime?

Not if you're municipal AND grant comp time.

 

The new sick leave law pays workers' rent

Unless your (sorta) government

And no matter who gets COVID-19

Employees ALL get paid during quarantine.

 

What if we offer NYS retirement?

Just that doesn't make you government.

But if HR's handled by your municipality

You might just be a public agency.

 

What if there's a union contract?

That can change everything, that's a fact.

And don't forget your HR handbook

Should be based on the "type" of path you took.

 

Yes, there IS legal variety

caused by the "types" of library

But despite inconsistencies

One thing's always true: director hired by trustees.

 

And regardless of type or identity

And despite any support or interdependency

No matter what your answers to the questions three

Your library has... autonomy.

Tags: COVID-19, Emergency Response, Employee Rights, Labor, Legal Poems, PTO, Vacation, and Leave, Sick Leave, Workers Comp

The WNYLRC's "Ask the Lawyer" service is available to members of the Western New York Library Resources Council. It is not legal representation of individual members.