New Scotland to follow federal guidance on pay for COVID absences

NEW SCOTLAND — Seeking to be better prepared, citing the opening of school as an example, and with the country experiencing its third surge of COVID-19, the town of New Scotland has clarified its policy on how workers are to be compensated if they are under quarantine or if they have to care for ill family members. 

On Oct. 7, positive test results confirmed three COVID-19 cases in town and 23 people who had come into contact with an infected person were under quarantine.

By Oct. 12, there were seven confirmed cases but nine people under quarantine — two households accounted for five of the cases, while the nine quarantined were in nine different households. 

As of Oct. 20, there were five confirmed cases, 17 quarantined, and one PUI (patient under investigation), Supervisor Douglas LaGrange said at the board’s now-semi-regular special COVID meeting on Oct. 23.

LaGrange said he asked, “What’s a PUI?” and learned that it’s someone who is believed to be infected but is awaiting testing results.

The board last Friday also made changes to its COVID employee-leave policy.

The town wanted to have a clear policy as it related to when an employee  wasn’t directly impacted by COVID but rather has to care for a child or other family member who is sick with the virus.

The federal and state law is already clear on this: The minimum would be, if someone is caring for a dependent in his or her household and that dependent is subject to a mandatory or precautionary quarantine order, the town is obligated to allow the worker to care for the dependent without having to use accrual time.

Under federal law, the worker is to be paid two-thirds of his or her normal salary, and it is also acceptable for the employer to require the employee to work from home, if possible.

The town’s initial resolution did not delineate between a worker who had tested positive for the virus and a worker who had to take care of a dependent who had COVID-19. It only said, “employees will be compensated for a ‘normal day’s’ pay without charging accruals if required to stay home due to mandated scheduling or self- and mandated quarantines, and said employees will work from home to the extent practical.”

 Prior to making a formal motion, Michael Naughton, the town attorney, recommended that LaGrange take the temperature of the board, because there had been a lot of discussion about the issue.

LaGrange and Hennessy were for keeping the pay at 100 percent, Hennessy said he was OK with the 100 percent for two weeks and then dropping to two-thirds; council members Adam Greenberg, Daniel Leinung, and Bridgit Burke were for dropping the pay to 66 percent.

Then the board, in a 4-to-1 vote, repealed the Oct. 2 resolution and instead will follow state and federal guidance on the issue, with Councilman William Hennessy casting the dissenting vote. 

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, according to the United States Department of Labor, provides:

— Two weeks, up to 80 hours, of paid sick leave at an employee’s regular pay when the worker is unable to work because he or she is quarantined — “pursuant to federal, state, or local government order or advice of a healthcare provider” —  and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or

— Two weeks, up to 80 hours, of paid sick leave at two-thirds of an employee’s pay rate because he or she is unable to work because of a “bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine,” or to care for a child — who is under 18 years old — and whose school or child-care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19”; and

— Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds an employee’s regular pay where the worker, “who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days,” is unable to work “due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.”

More New Scotland News

  • In this week’s Enterprise library notes, Lynn Kohler writes that the Voorheesville Public Library’s $1.2 million budget for next year — which is down from $1.35 million this year — was developed without increasing property taxes and was approved by the board of trustees at its March 6 meeting.  “For this reason, Kohler writes, “a public vote on the budget is not required and will not appear on the 2021 ballot.”

  • Valerie Glover, who, with her husband, Richard, purchased the historic Picard’s Grove property and placed 80 percent of it under a conservation easement, said that virtually all the proceeds of the sale will be put back into the property, which holds a farmhouse, barn, restaurant-and-dancehall, and other structures that are in need of repair.

  • An agreement between two major freight carriers calls for Norfolk Southern to foot the bill to reconnect to the CSX line in Voorheesville, which crosses over Main Street. In addition, Norfolk Southern will be rehabilitating the 15.5 miles of rail once known as the Voorheesville Running Track, which starts in Schenectady County, passes through Altamont, and terminates in Voorheesville.

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