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New York Paid Family Leave: How it Applies to Colleges

By Kerry Langan and Caroline Westover


Answering common employer questions

The New York Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) on July 19 published its final regulations implementing the New York Paid Family Leave Law (PFL).

With the regulations final, employers should be modifying existing leave policies and processes to incorporate PFL requirements, and to develop new PFL policies that offer employees information about their rights and obligations under the law. 

We held a webinar on New York’s PFL on July 25, in which we received hundreds of questions. While we didn’t have the opportunity during the webinar to address all the inquiries that we received, we noted afterwards that many employers raised the same questions. So, this article is dedicated to answering some of the most frequently asked questions we received. We hope this follow-up will be helpful to employers in preparation for the launch of PFL in 2018.

This batch of questions and answers focuses on the application of PFL to higher-education institutions.

Q: Are private colleges and universities covered by PFL?

A: Yes. Private colleges and universities are deemed to be covered employers under PFL. However, if these colleges and universities are not-for-profit organizations, they may be deemed to be covered employers, but may also have some employees who are not covered by PFL. Specifically, employees engaged in a “professional” or teaching capacity for not-for-profit educational institutions are excluded from the definition of employee under the law. Certainly, higher-education institutions can extend coverage to these exempt classes of individuals if they choose to do so.

Q: Are state colleges and universities covered by PFL?

A: No, to the extent that such institutions fall within the definition of a “public employer.” PFL does not apply to public employers, which includes the following entities: the state, a political subdivision of the state, a public authority, or any other governmental agency or instrumentality.

Q: Can state colleges and universities voluntarily choose to provide benefits under the PFL law?

A: Yes. Public employers are permitted to opt in to PFL. The process for opting in is slightly different for unionized and non-unionized employers. If a public employer chooses to cover its non-unionized workers, it must provide 90 days’ notice of its decision to opt in to not only the WCB, but also to all employees who will be required to make PFL contributions. For a public employer to cover/opt in its unionized employees, the public employer must engage in collective bargaining and reach consensus/agreement with the applicable union. Once an agreement is reached, the employer must notify the WCB that an agreement has been attained and provide certain information to the WCB.

Q: Are higher-education institutions who currently provide voluntary state disability insurance coverage (DBL) to their employees also required to provide PFL?

A: No. However, if these colleges and universities currently provide voluntary DBL coverage to their employees, they must notify both the employees and the WCB whether they will also provide voluntarily PFL coverage. Notification must be made by no later than Dec. 1, 2017.

Q: Are student employees entitled to PFL?

A: Yes, provided they satisfy the requisite eligibility criteria. Student employees are treated in the same manner as any other employee. If the student employee is regularly scheduled to work at least 20 hours a week, he/she is eligible to take PFL after he/she has been employed for 26 weeks. If the student employee is regularly scheduled to work less than 20 hours per week, he/she is eligible to take PFL after working 175 days.         

Kerry Langan and Caroline Westover are labor and employment law attorneys at Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC in Syracuse. This viewpoint article is drawn from the firm’s New York Labor & Employment Law Report blog. Contact Langan at and Westover at


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