Not understanding the laws protecting employees and their earned sick leave can expose companies to substantial fines. This is particularly true in New York City, which has its own Paid Sick Leave Law.
When New York City employees are sick and cannot work, they are entitled to sick leave without worrying about job security. The sick leave may be paid or unpaid, depending on the size of the employer. The New York City Earned Sick Time Act, also known as the Paid Sick Leave Law, requires employers in New York City to provide sick leave to their employees.
Certain Employers Must Provide Sick Leave to Employees
As the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs explains, employers in New York City with "five or more employees who are employed for hire more than 80 hours a calendar year" are required to provide paid sick leave. In addition, an employer of "one or more domestic workers who have worked for the employer for at least a year and who work more than 80 hours a calendar year" is also required to provide paid sick leave. Nonprofit employers must also abide by the Paid Sick Leave Law, but some employers, such as local, state and federal agencies, are exempt. New York City employers with fewer than five employees are required to provide unpaid sick leave. When counting the total number of employees for the purposes of coverage, employers in New York City are required to count all employees, regardless of whether they live in New York City.
Employees Entitled to Sick Leave Under New York City Law
Under the law, non-exempt employees can accrue up to 40 hours of sick leave every calendar year. An employee begins accruing sick leave on the first day of employment and accrues one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours that he or she works.
The law applies to a wide range of employees, including:
● Full-time employees;
● Part-time employees;
● Temporary employees;
● Per diem employees;
● Transitional job program employees;
● Undocumented employees;
● Employees who are family members (but not owners);
● Employees who work in New York City (even if they live outside New York City); and
● Owners defined as employees by New York Labor Law.
Reasons an Employee Can Use Sick Leave
There are numerous reasons that an employee can take sick leave under the law, including but not limited to the following:
● Mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;
● Need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment;
● Need for preventive medical care;
● Elective surgery;
● Care of a family member who needs medical care; and
● Care of a family member who has elective surgery.
The employee can also use their sick leave when an employee's workplace is closed for a public health emergency, or if that employee's child needs care due to a public health emergency closure. In addition, the Earned Sick Time Act was recently amended by the "Earned Safe and Sick Time Act" to allow employees to use sick time for family offense matters, sexual abuse, stalking, and human trafficking. The new law will take effect in May 2018.
While employees cannot sue their employers in court for violations of the Earned Sick Time Act, they can file complaints with the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs. The Department investigates alleged violations of the Earned Sick Time Act. Employers who have violated the Earned Sick Time Act may be required to pay damages to all affected employees and civil penalties to the Department.
If you have questions about your rights or responsibilities under the Earned Sick Time Act, you should speak with a New York labor lawyer.