New York City Expands Paid Time Off Protections
On Monday, November 6, 2017, New York City Mayor, Bill De Blasio signed into law an expansion of the New York City paid sick leave law to add additional protections. Under the amended law, now called the “Earned Sick and Safe Time Act,” eligible victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault are entitled to paid time off from work. The new protections shall become effective May 5, 2018.
The prior law required that employers with five or more employees provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave to eligible employees for purposes of caring for an ill family member or themselves. This benefit continues, but is now expanded to include victims of human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault, allowing them to take paid time off, to be considered “safe time” to receive services related to those abuses (e.g., preparing for and attending a civil or criminal proceeding, seeking services from domestic violence shelter or rape crisis center or housing and relocation services, etc.) Besides the victims of these crimes, the law affords family members who need to assist those individuals the ability to take paid time off. The new law also expands the definition of family member. Under the prior law, “family member” was defined as a biological relative, spouse or domestic partner. The Earned Sick and Safe Time Act expands the definition of family member to recognize “chosen” families, not just biological relatives.
Documentation and Notice to the Employer
Employers may require reasonable documentation for an absence of more than three consecutive workdays, as well as advance notice of a foreseeable need to use safe time. Documentation may include court records or police reports or documents provided by victim services organizations, attorneys, clergy and/or medical or professional services providers. Employers cannot require documentation that details employees’ or their family members’ status or perceived status as a victim.
Enforcement of the Law
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Labor Policy and Standards will enforce the law. The agency can impose statutory fines and also require employers to pay restitution to employees.
Employer’s Next Steps
In anticipation of this new law, employers should carefully review and modify their existing leave and other employment policies.