Effective April 1, 2014, private sector New York City employers with five or more employees must provide paid sick time to all employees who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year.1

Accrual and Use
Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the City Council’s expanded sick leave bill earlier this year. The New York City Earned Sick Time Act (the “Act”) provides that these private sector employees will now earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year, accruing at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. The Act covers both full-time and parttime workers.

Employees may use sick time for three purposes:

  1. The employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or need for preventive medical care; and/or
  2. Care of a family member2 who needs medical diagnosis, care or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition or who needs preventive medical care; and/or
  3. Closure of the employee’s place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or such employee’s need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.

Employees will begin accruing sick time at the start of employment or on April 1, 2014, whichever is later, but cannot begin using the sick time until July 30, 2014 or 120 days after the start of employment, whichever is later.

Unused sick time carries over to the following year, but the Act does not require employers to offer more than 40 hours of paid sick time to an employee per year. The Act does not require any payment to employees for accrued but unused sick time.

Notice and Documentation by Employees
An employer may require reasonable notice from the employee of the need to use sick time. When the need to use sick time is foreseeable, an employee may be required to provide notice of up to seven days; when the need is unforeseeable, an employee may be required to provide notice to the employer as soon as is practicable. An employer may require documentation signed by a licensed health care provider, but only for absences of three or more consecutive work days. The Act restricts employers from seeking information about the nature of the illness or absence.

Employer Obligations
Employers who provide sick leave must provide a Notice to new employees when they begin employment and to existing employees by May 1, 2014. (A copy of the Notice prepared by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs can be accessed at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/downloads/pdf/Mand atoryNotice.pdf.) The Notice describes the accrual and use of sick time, defines the employer’s “calendar year,” and advises employees of their right to be free from retaliation for using sick time and the right to file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs in connection with violations of the Act.  in English and any other primary language spoken by the employee, if the Department has posted a form in that language on its website (the Department plans to provide the Notice in Spanish, Chinese, French-Creole, Italian, Korean, and Russian).

Employers must maintain sick-time compliance records for at least three years.

Next Steps
Employers with New York City locations who already offer paid leave that can be used as sick time should evaluate their existing policies and update them to comply with the Act’s requirements. Those employers whose existing policies do not comply with the Act must draft new policies that meet the minimum requirements of the Act.

Please contact us with questions and for guidance in ensuring your company’s policies comply with the new legislation.

1 The Act does not cover independent contractors, work-study students, government employees, and certain hourly physical, speech, and occupational therapists. In addition, union agreements in certain industries may opt their workers out of the Act. Domestic workers are also subject to different regulations.

2 A “family member” is defined as 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.