BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Employees and businesses across Western New York are now bracing themselves for the first confirmed case of coronavirus COVID-19 in this area.
Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO for the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, tells 7 Eyewitness News the organization has sent information to 300 companies about dealing with the virus. A big concern is how companies will cope with potential high-numbers of absenteeism as government officials are requiring people who have been in contact with COVID-19 to be quarantined for 14-days. You can read that information yourself.
Many workers are wondering if being placed in quarantine will be covered by sick leave or other government programs? Will they still have a job (especially if they are part-time, minimum wage employees)? Who will pay if an employee does not have any sick time benefits?
7 Eyewitness News attempted to get answers.
Government programs, like the federal "Family and Medical Leave Act" (which protects a job during a leave) and New York State Disability Benefits (payments after being unable to work for more than 7 days), are meant to cover employees dealing with serious illnesses.
The U.S. Department of Labor sent us the following information:
"The Family and Medical Leave Act protects eligible employees who are incapacitated by a serious health condition, as may be the case with the flu or other illnesses where complications arise, or who are needed to care for covered family members who are incapacitated by a serious health condition. Leave taken by an employee for the purpose of avoiding exposure to the flu or other illnesses would not be protected under the FMLA. Employers should encourage employees who are ill with pandemic influenza or are exposed to ill family members to stay home and should consider flexible leave policies for their employees in these circumstances. The administration supports employers enacting telework and other flexible policies to ensure the health and safety of workers, and in doing so continuing to be able to offer available work.
Sick or quarantined individuals will not generally be eligible for regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefits unless they are laid off and unemployed through no fault of their own. States may not waive work search requirements, but there is some flexibility to find individuals eligible based on their ongoing attachment to their employer. However, these interpretations are case specific and each needs to be analyzed individually."
Governor Coumo called for paid-leave provisions in his 2020 Executive Budget. During a press conference on the virus, Cuomo said he will be talking to leaders in the state legislature about pushing for the law.
"Even a voluntary quarantine puts a personal hardship on a person and that person should get paid," said the governor.