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Coronavirus Employee Benefits Considerations

03/10/20

Coronavirus Employee Benefits Considerations

Schools in the Westchester County, a new coronavirus hotspot, could remain closed for weeks, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. In Nassau County NY, Hofstra University officials announced that all campus classes have been canceled for the week after a student who attended an event with someone infected with the coronavirus then reported developing flu-like symptoms. Other schools in Nassau County NY are also closed.

The widespread reporting about the Coronavirus has led to several questions from employers regarding employee benefit issues.

401k Considerations

The Healthy Families Act (HFA) has been proposed.  This emergency paid sick days legislation requires all employers to allow workers to accrue seven days of paid sick leave and to provide an additional 14 days available immediately in the event of any public health emergency, including the current coronavirus crisis. Thus sick days due to a public health emergency may not disqualify an employee for the 401k. 

HIPAA

In a nutshell, if the employer learns that an employee has tested positive for the Coronavirus,  then that information is likely protected under HIPPA. The employer absolutely cannot share the medical diagnosis or other medical information, unless the employee’s diagnosis becomes imperative for others to know.  

While there may be a temptation to want to let other employees know or try to help the affected employee, confidentiality provisions may apply from other laws (such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, or Workers’ Compensation Laws).

Paid Family Leave

Employees who are taking off to deal with family members with the Coronavirus may or may not be are entitled to benefits under New York’s Paid Family Leave.  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. Coronavirus 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.  

 Employees needs to submit a claim, can get their forms here http://thepensiondepartment.com/blog/ny-family-leave-forms.

New York State Disability

Employees who have been infected with the Coronavirus may or may not be entitled to disability benefits under New York’s Short Term Disability. “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.