On December 18, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law an amendment of the state Civil Service Law in relation to granting paid, excused leave to public officers and public employees to undertake cancer screenings.  The purpose of the amendment is to encourage individuals to be screened regularly for all types of cancer by providing time off from work, thereby increasing the number of cancers caught at an early stage and improving public health.  The new law becomes effective in ninety days.

The law amends Section 159-b of the Civil Service Law to entitle any municipal or school district employee – specifically noted as any employee of the state, any county, municipality, school district, community college, public authorities, public benefit corporations, any board of cooperative educational services, vocational education and extension board, participating employers in the state and local employees’ retirement system or of a participating employer in the state teachers’ retirement system – to have a paid, excused leave of absence from his or her duties for a sufficient period of time, not to exceed four hours, to undertake a screening for cancer of any kind.  In 2007, a version of this law came into effect but was limited to public officers’ and employees’ ability to take excused leave for breastcancer screening only.

Notably, the excused leave afforded by these amendments cannot be charged against any other leave to which a municipal officer or school district employee is otherwise entitled, but employers may reserve the right to require all employees taking such leave to provide a written referral from a physician or other duly authorized health care provider.  The law also repeals Section 159-c of the Civil Service Law, which permitted certain municipal and school district employees to take an excused leave for prostate cancer screening.

Employers should be mindful of their obligation to grant municipal and school district employees leave for cancer screening of any kind, as the law no longer applies only to screening for breast and prostate cancers.