States are Updating Employee Leave Requirements for Coronavirus

Sep 3, 2020 | COVID-19, Employee Benefits, Labor Laws

employee leave requirements

In response to the pandemic, several states have passed new laws and issued new regulations and guidance about employee leave requirements for COVID-19 reasons. These impact household employers and their workers. Here is a look at what’s new across the United States.

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some states have passed new laws and issued new regulations and guidance about employee leave requirements for COVID-19 reasons.

These provisions are in addition to the federal paid sick and family leave requirements passed in March as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Those benefits run through the end of the year.

In general, employee leave permitted under new state COVID-19 rules and guidance varies. Some factors include:

  • employers and employees covered by the leave
  • length and purpose of the leave
  • whether the leave is compensated and at what rate
  • whether the leave is provided under a new law or rule, or covered under an existing provision.

In this post, we’ll get into some of the new state employee leave provisions and guidance enacted or issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this list may not be exhaustive and household employers should monitor the websites for their state departments of labor for new laws, rules, and guidance about COVID-19-related employee leave. Contact your state’s labor department with any questions or more information.


The California Labor Commissioner has issued FAQs on employee leave options, compensation, and salary in the context of COVID-19.


On May 12, 2020, Oakland passed a law requiring all employers within the city to provide their workers with emergency paid sick leave for specified COVID-19-related reasons, including being at least 65 years old or at other risk of serious illness from COVID-19 exposure. The law took effect immediately upon passage. Full-time workers receive 80 hours of leave, while part-time workers are entitled to an amount of leave equal to their average work hours over a 14-day period, based on hours worked during the period Feb. 3 – March 4, 2020. Additionally, the ordinance requires employers to compensate all employees laid off on or after May 12, 2020, immediately upon separation for paid sick leave they accrued under Oakland’s existing paid sick leave law.

Household employers may take a credit towards the leave required in the ordinance for any emergency paid sick leave they provided an employee under the FFCRA. Pay caps and exemptions, including for small employers (fewer than 50 employees). The city has issued FAQs on the ordinance.

San Fransisco

San Fransisco has published guidance on the city’s Paid Sick Leave and the coronavirus.


Connecticut has issued FAQs on the application of various employment laws and programs — including the state’s paid sick leave and family leave requirements — to workers and businesses affected by COVID-19.



Chicago passed an ordinance banning retaliation against employees for staying home from work for certain COVID-19-related reasons, including caring for others with COVID-19. The law provides employees with a private right of action for violations, allowing damages of three times the wages the employee would have earned and attorneys’ fees, in addition to other enforcement actions. The ordinance took effect on May 20, 2020. The city has issued FAQs on the ordinance.


Under an April 2020 executive order, Michigan employers are prohibited from discharging, disciplining or otherwise retaliating against employees for staying home when they are at particular risk of infecting others with COVID-19. If employees have exhausted their paid leave, they must be allowed to take leave as unpaid. The order applies to employees who themselves, or whose close contacts, test positive for COVID-19 or display one or more of the principal symptoms of COVID-19.


The Nevada Labor Commissioner’s Office has issued guidance on employees’ use of leave for COVID-19 purposes under the state’s new paid leave law. According to the guidance, employees may elect to use available paid leave or other applicable leave while out on a mandatory government quarantine, but employers may not require that employees use the leave for this purpose.

New Jersey

Recently passed legislation in New Jersey prohibits employers from terminating or refusing to reinstate employees for taking time off (as instructed by a medical professional) due to COVID-19. Another new law expands the definition of “serious health condition” in the state’s temporary disability insurance (TDI) and family leave insurance (FLI) programs to allow benefits when a person is diagnosed with or suspected of exposure to a communicable disease or to take care of a family member similarly affected.

The legislation also expands New Jersey’s earned sick leave law to permit the use of earned sick time for isolation or quarantine recommended or ordered by a provider or public health official as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or to care for a family member under similar isolation or quarantine.

The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development has developed printable guides outlining COVID-19–related benefits for New Jersey employees. These guides explain the applicability of benefits like earned sick leave, unemployment insurance, temporary disability, and family leave insurance and workers’ compensation in various COVID-19-related situations.

New York

New York state enacted a new law providing leave for employees subject to a quarantine or isolation order due to COVID-19, effective March 18, 2020. Whether and how much employee compensation is required during the leave depends on the size and net income of the employer. For household employers (10 or fewer employees), domestic workers can receive unpaid leave through the end of the quarantine or isolation. Employees are eligible for paid family leave and disability benefits.

The law also allows paid family leave for employees to care for children under a quarantine or isolation order. Employees eligible for federal COVID-19-related leave may take state leave only to the extent that it exceeds the federal leave. Exceptions to the leave requirement apply for asymptomatic or undiagnosed employees who traveled to affected regions (including states on New York’s travel advisory) for non-work purposes.

For further information, see the state’s FAQs, or contact the New York State Department of Labor.


The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries issued a temporary rule clarifying that the state’s family leave covers an employee’s absence to care for his or her child whose school or place of care has been closed in conjunction with a statewide public health emergency declared by a public health official.

Oregon has also issued guidance on the use of sick time (which may also be used for public health school closures) in the context of COVID-19.



Under emergency regulations, employees covered by the city’s sick leave law may use that leave for specified COVID-19-related reasons. Get more information.

Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Division of Labor and Training is waiving certain eligibility requirements for individuals filing COVID-19-related claims under the state’s temporary disability insurance and temporary caregiver insurance programs.

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