New York City recently passed legislation to join only a handful of cities in the United States to mandate paid sick leave for employees.   New York City Council passed the Earned Sick Time Act overriding Mayor Bloomberg’s earlier veto. 

The Earned Sick Time Act requires that employers of at least 20 employees provide paid sick days starting on April 1, 2014 (unless various economic factors occur) and employers with at least 15 employees provide paid sick days starting on October 1, 2015.  The Act counts all employees employed by the business (as well as certain affiliated business) regardless of whether or not the employees are located in New York City for purposes of determining whether or not the employer meets the minimum employee threshold. 

Both full-time and part-time employees who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year are eligible for the paid sick leave.   Employees earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours (5 days) of sick leave in a calendar year.  Although sick leave accrual begins upon hiring, employees are not eligible to use statutory sick leave until they have been employed for at least four months.

Additionally, small employers who do not meet the 15 or 20 employee threshold must provide an equal number of unpaid sick leave days for employees. 

Employers can count any paid time off they offer for vacation or personal days if the employee can use those days for the purposes and same conditions as required by the Act.  An employee must be allowed to use sick time for absence from work due to:

  • The employee’s mental or physical illness, injury or heath condition or need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment or need for preventative medical care; or
  • Care of a family member (child, spouse, domestic partner, parent or the child or parent of the employee’s spouse or domestic partner) who needs medical care, diagnosis or treatment or preventative medical care; or
  • Closure of employee’s place of business due to a public health emergency or need to care for child whose school or daycare has been closed due to a public health emergency.

Many employers already provide sufficient paid time off to comply with the provisions of this Act.  However, employers will want to review their time off policies to ensure that all paid time off, or at least 5 days, can be used as “sick time” in order to comply with the Act.

Additionally, the Act requires additional recordkeeping by requiring employers to inform all new hires of their right to paid or unpaid sick leave. The individual notice, which must be provided in the employee’s primary language, must disclose that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee for using the leave and that they have a right to file a complaint with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) — the agency tasked with the enforcement of the new statute. Failure to give the required notice can result in civil fines of $50 per employee.  Employers must keep records of all notices, hours worked and other records documenting their compliance for at least two years and allow the DCA to audit those records upon request.