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The Empire State Chapter is dedicated to answering your important COVID-19 related questions. We have created the following FAQ page to help do so. As always, please call your Membership Director if you need any assistance.

NYS and Masks Wearing

  • Masks are encouraged to be used in New York, but there are currently no city or state mandate besides for individuals entering school buildings
  • Individual businesses will be allowed to require masks at/inside their establishments at their discretion
  • Masks are heavily encouraged for unvaccinated individuals or at risk individuals

Issues Regarding Vaccinations

Is asking or requiring an employee to show proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination a disability-related inquiry? 

No.  There are many reasons that may explain why an employee has not been vaccinated, which may or may not be disability-related.  Simply requesting proof of receipt of a COVID-19 vaccination is not likely to elicit information about a disability and, therefore, is not a disability-related inquiry.  However, subsequent employer questions, such as asking why an individual did not receive a vaccination, may elicit information about a disability and would be subject to the pertinent ADA standard that they be “job-related and consistent with business necessity.”  If an employer requires employees to provide proof that they have received a COVID-19 vaccination from a pharmacy or their own health care provider, the employer may want to warn the employee not to provide any medical information as part of the proof in order to avoid implicating the ADA.

How much information may an employer request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic?

During a pandemic, ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.

If an employer requires vaccinations, how should it respond to an employee who indicates that he or she is unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccination because of a sincerely held religious practice or belief? 

Once an employer is on notice that an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance prevents the employee from receiving the vaccination, the employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for the religious belief, practice, or observance unless it would pose an undue hardship under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Courts have defined “undue hardship” under Title VII as having more than a de minimis cost or burden on the employer. EEOC guidance explains that because the definition of religion is broad and protects beliefs, practices, and observances with which the employer may be unfamiliar, the employer should ordinarily assume that an employee’s request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief.  If, however, an employee requests a religious accommodation, and an employer has an objective basis for questioning either the religious nature or the sincerity of a particular belief, practice, or observance, the employer would be justified in requesting additional supporting information.

What happens if an employer cannot exempt or provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee who cannot comply with a mandatory vaccine policy because of a disability or sincerely held religious practice or belief?

If an employee cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, then it would be lawful for the employer to exclude the employee from the workplace.  This does not mean the employer may automatically terminate the worker.  Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local authorities.

Can I require my employees to get vaccinated as part of their employment? 
Yes, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers can require all employees to be vaccinated before physically entering the workplace. So long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEOC Considerations. Read more by clicking here

Am I required to pay my employee if they leave work to get their vaccine? 
Yes. Employers are required to provide 4 hours of paid leave so employees can receive their COVID vaccine.

See the Paid Leave for COVID-19 Vaccinations fact sheet for more information.

How do I find the closest vaccine site?
Click here to find vaccines

How do I find the closest testing site?
Click here to find the closest testing site.

Other Vital COVID Questions

Am I required to pay people who are out on quarantine by me or local/state health departments?
Yes. When you send someone home because they have symptoms of COVID-19 or to get tested you must pay them under the New York State COVID Paid Sick Leave.

Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees may want to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies. Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of and understand these policies.

Employer Size Net Income Level in 2019 Required Sick Days to Provide
1-10 Employees $1 Million or less Not Required
1-10 Employees Over $1 Million At least 5 days
11-99 Employees Doesn’t Matter At least 5 days
100 or more employees Doesn’t Matter At least 14 days
Public Employers Any Size At least 14 days

Click here for more information on the New York State COVID Sick Leave.

An employee called to say they were or may have been exposed to COVID-19. What do I do?
Employees who may have been exposed to the virus should stay home and monitor their symptoms. If after 72 hours, they remain symptom free, you can consider bringing them back to work. However, we recommend before bringing them back you require them to get tested.

For the rest of your employees, before you send them home or you ask them to get tested:

  • Have they been wearing a mask?
  • Are they working more than 6 feet apart?
  • Have they filled out their daily COVID-19 questionnaire?

If the answer to the above are yes, they can continue to work but you should monitor them for any symptoms.

Refer to question 1 about paying the employee

*The CDC has now defined prolonged exposure as being mask-less and closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes. If anyone matches that criteria we encourage you to pull them from the workforce and get them tested.

What should I do if an employee comes to work with COVID-19 symptoms?
Employees who have symptoms when they arrive at work or become sick during the day should be immediately sent home. They should not return to work until they no longer feel symptoms of COVID-19 after isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider. You may require them to get a test before they can return to work.

After 24 hours without a fever, the employee can return to work as long as they continue to monitor their symptoms.

Do I have to pay them? Yes. See answer 1

What happens if one of my employees tests positive for COVID-19?
In most cases, you do not need to shut down your office or jobsite. If it has been less than 7 days since the sick employee has been in the office or on the site, close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person:

  • Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait if possible. During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.
  • Inform employees of their possible exposure but maintain confidentiality as it relates to state law.

How do I bring back an employee that tested positive?
Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under ALL the following conditions:

  • At least 10 days* have passed since symptom onset
  • At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications
  • Other symptoms have improved

Employees can return to work after meeting all quarantine breaking requirements listed here: Disposition of Non-Hospitalized Patients with COVID-19 | CDC

You can require them to get tested before returning to work. However, the policy must be non-discriminatory, and consistent. Test for Current Infection | CDC

I have an employee that has been out of work for more than 7 days after testing positive, is there anything I need to do on the jobsite or in the office?
If it has been 7 days or more since the sick employee used the office or jobsite, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary. Continue routinely cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces in the office or jobsite. Continue to ensure that all your employees monitor their symptoms and fill out their daily COVID-19 questionnaire.

What if the employee never felt symptoms but did have a positive test?
Persons infected with COVID who never develop symptoms may discontinue isolation and other precautions 10 days after the date of their first positive test.

I’m a subcontractor who had an employee test positive. Do I need to notify the general contractor?
First, you must ensure all your employees are filling out their daily COVID-19 questionnaire. You need to notify the general contractor of the positive test and the last time that employee was on the jobsite.

Refer back to Question 4 about dealing with employees who have tested positive

As a general contractor who was notified by a subcontractor of a positive COVID test. What are my notification responsibilities?
A general contractor needs to notify the project owner and other subcontractors.

ABC Empire State Chapter conducted a webinar that covers contractual requirements, click here for more information.

I’m a subcontractor, can I refuse to work on a site where the general contractor had someone test positive?
ABC Empire State Chapter conducted a webinar that covers contractual requirements, please click here for more information.

If I must shut down my office or my worksite job trailer what steps do I need to take?
Ensure your office staff have the proper equipment to work from home. You should consider having a professional service clean your office during the shutdown, however it’s not required.

New York State Hero Act Implications

When do I have to kick my airborne infectious disease prevention policy into action?

You must begin to implement and follow your plan if the Commissioner of Health designates an illness as something that is highly contagious. Seasonal colds and flus wont be considered but the Delta Variant could kick you policies into place if the Commissioner decides to designate it.

Please CLICK HERE to review the New York State DOL Hero Act Standards

What are my requirements if the Health Commissioner makes a designation? 

  1. You must verbally educate all of your employees on your plan and what they will be required to do
  2. You must provide the plans in both English & Spanish
  3. The rules put in place will be very similar to the plans members used during COVID

Please CLICK HERE to review the sample plan provided by the New York State Department of Labor

For more information on the Hero Act, please CLICK HERE to watch our webinar on the new requirements for businesses