New York City Sick Leave Law Expanded Prior to April 1, 2014, Effective Date

by Holland & Knight LLP
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  • New York City's Earned Sick Time Act – which requires most of the city's private employers to provide paid or unpaid sick leave to employees – takes effect on April 1, 2014.
  • The Earned Sick Time Act has already been expanded. All employers with five or more employees, and all employers of at least one domestic worker, must provide paid sick time. All other employees are entitled to unpaid sick leave without penalty.

Recent legislation has expanded the obligations for employers under New York City's new Earned Sick Time Act (the "Act"), which takes effect on April 1, 2014. The revised Act requires that all employers with at least five employees, and all employers of at least one domestic worker, must provide paid sick time to their employees. All other employees are entitled to unpaid sick leave without penalty under the Act.

Available Time Off

Employees will be entitled to a minimum of one hour of sick time for every thirty hours worked, up to forty hours of sick time in a calendar year. An employee will be entitled to begin using sick time on the 120th calendar day following the first day of employment or on the 120th day following the effective date of the Act (July 31, 2014), whichever is later.

Eligible Use of Sick Leave

Under the Act, sick time may be used to care for an employee's own health needs or to care for a family member (an employee's child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild or grandparent, or the child or parent of an employee's spouse or domestic partner).

Sick time may also be applied when schools or businesses are closed due to a public health emergency.

Employee Notice and Documentation

An employer may require reasonable notice of planned use of sick time and, similarly, may require an employee to provide notice of unforeseeable use of sick time as soon as practicable.

When an employee is absent for more than three consecutive work days, an employer may demand reasonable documentation that the time off was used for a purpose covered under the Act. A note signed by a licensed health care provider indicating the need for the sick time taken is considered reasonable. An employer may not demand documentation specifying the nature of the employee or relative's injury, illness or condition unless otherwise required by law.

The employer may not require an employee taking covered sick time to find a replacement worker as a precondition to taking the legally protected sick leave.

Employers may discipline employees who attempt to use sick time for improper absences not linked to the covered health needs of the employee or a relative.

Enforcement

The Department of Consumer Affairs is charged with enforcement of the Act. Employers are required to retain records documenting their compliance with the Act for three years.

Complaints may be filed alleging violations of the Act for up to two years following a violation.

Employers who were not originally required to provide paid sick time under the Act, i.e., those with fewer than twenty employees, have a grace period for violations until October 1, 2014. The grace period does not apply to employers of domestic employees.

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