COVID-19 and New York’s DBL (Short Term Disability) and Paid Family Leave Coverage


A question many folks have asked, “Is staying at home under quarantine covered under NY’s definition of Disability?”

No, based on the definitions in New York State Disability Benefits Law Article 9, a preventative quarantine would not constitute a disabling event and therefore, would not be a covered claim under your DBL/PFL policy.


What if I have COVID-19, is it a disability?

Maybe. “Disability” during employment means the inability of an employee (after the applicable seven day waiting period), as a result of an off-the-job injury or illness, to perform the regular duties of his/her employment. New York State specifically states that it typically does NOT include treatment for a cold or the flu.  So, it would depend on the severity and length of the illness in a given case.


Is it covered under New York Paid Family Leave?

No, staying home for preventive reasons ONLY is not a payable claim, and PFL is not meant for self-care. PFL can only be used by an eligible employee to bond with/care for a qualifying family member with a “serious health condition” as defined in the regulations, or as a result of a military leave event.


I heard Governor Cuomo signed something amending Paid Family Leave to cover this?

No. Governor Cuomo recently announced he would be amending his Paid Sick Leave legislation in response to this pandemic, which is a component of the Governor’s budget proposal. Paid Sick Leave regulations apply to all NY employers, BUT are separate from Paid Family Leave regulations.

Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal requires businesses with five to 99 employees to offer at least five days of job-protected paid sick leave annually. Employers with 100 or more workers must provide seven days of paid sick leave. Businesses with four or fewer employees must offer five days of unpaid leave. This amendment specifically protects people who stay home from work because they are being isolated or quarantined as a result of COVID-19.


What if I am caring for a family member with COVID-19?

Maybe. The qualifying family member would need to meet all criteria of having a “serious health condition” as set forth in regulation, and be undergoing “treatment” for the condition by a health care provider. COVID-19 is similar to a cold or flu, which generally is not covered under PFL for Family Care, unless complications are present or the family member is hospital-confined. Over-the-counter medication, rest fluids, and preventative quarantines/self-monitoring does not constitute treatment for COVID-19.

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