City Expands Sick Time Act to Cover “Safe Time”
On November 6, 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that will expand the scope of the New York City Earned Sick Time Act (the “Act”) by allowing employees to take leave when an employee or an employee’s family member is a victim of a family offense matter (defined in the Act to include a variety of acts or threats that represent types of domestic violence), sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking. The bill will go into effect on May 5, 2018.
Currently the Act requires most employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave in a calendar year to New York City employees. Under the Act, paid sick leave can be used to, among other things, care for an employee’s own mental or physical illness, care for a family member who needs medical care, or care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed due to a public health emergency. Subject to certain limited exceptions, employees who work more than 80 hours in a calendar year within New York City are covered by the Act, whether full-time, part time or temporary. The recent amendment to the Act will rename the law – the New York City “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.” The significant changes are summarized below.
- The amended Act adds what is defined as “safe time,” which is leave for absences from work due to any of the following reasons when an employee or a family member has been a victim of a family offense matter, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking:
- to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center or other shelter or services program for relief from a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking;
- to participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of an employee’s family members from future family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking;
- to meet with a civil attorney or other social service provider to obtain information and advice on, and prepare for or participate in any criminal or civil proceeding, including but not limited to, matters related to a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, human trafficking, custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing discrimination in employment, housing or consumer credit;
- to file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement;
- to enroll children in a new school; or
- to take other actions necessary to maintain, improve or restore the physical, psychological or economic health or safety of an employee or an employee’s family member, or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.
- The revised Act expands the definition of covered “family member” for an employee for both sick and safe time purposes. Currently, the definition of family member includes the employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchildren, grandparent or the child or parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner. The updated definition includes: (i) any other individual related by blood to the employee, and (ii) any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. It is important to note that the amendment expands the coverage for the use of sick time, not just safe time, to include a much broader scope of potential “family members.”
- Under the amendment, employers will be permitted to obtain “reasonable documentation” for an employee’s absence of more than three consecutive work days for safe time. Employers have an obligation to maintain any information collected confidential and may not require the disclosure of specific details relating to family offenses matter, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking as a condition of providing safe time.
- Finally, the revised Act requires that employers provide written notice to all their current employees of the right to safe time within 30 days after the amendment’s effective date. In addition, employers will be required to provide written notice to all new employees of their right to safe time (as well as sick time) going forward.
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs is expected to update its website with information on the latest round of revisions to the Act. In the interim, employers should review their current handbooks, paid time off policies, and other employment practices and procedures to ensure full compliance with the amended Act.
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