United States: New York City Council Advances Legislation Expanding Earned Safe And Sick Time Law

Last Updated: July 1 2019
Article by James L. Ansorge and Katie Schwab

The New York City Council has scheduled a hearing on Int. 800-A, legislation that would expand NYC’s Earned Safe and Sick Time law by adding up to 80 hours of accrued personal time off. The legislation is sponsored by the Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and is part of a push by Mayor de Blasio for paid vacation time for private sector workers. The legislation also expands protections to workers under the city’s entire paid leave law, including sick and safe time. The public hearing will be held at City Hall on May 28 at 10 a.m.

The legislation would update and rename the city’s paid leave law to become the “Earned Safe, Sick, and Personal Time Law” that provides paid leave to employees under prescribed circumstances. Under the new legislation, all employers with five or more employees and all employers of one or more domestic workers would be required to provide one hour of personal time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 80 hours. Personal time could be used for an absence from work “for any reason” and an employee would not be required to provide any documentation for authorization by the employer. Where the use of personal time is foreseeable, an employer may require reasonable advance notice, not to exceed 14 days prior.

The legislation would allow workers to roll-over up to 80 hours of personal time to the following calendar year, although employers are not required to allow for the use of more than 80 hours in a calendar year.

The same exemptions would apply to this legislation as already exist under the Earned Safe and Sick Time Law, including independent contractors. However, the legislation would change one exempt category from “hourly professional employees” to “licensed providers of education related services.” Employers who provide employees with equivalent paid time off, paid vacation, paid personal days, or paid rest days are not required to provide additional personal time.

The legislation would also expand rules around prohibited employer interference that apply to all aspects of the paid time law, including sick and safe time. This includes replacing language around employers who “engage in retaliation or threaten retaliation” to “any adverse action that penalizes an employee for, or is reasonably likely to deter an employee from” exercising rights under the law. The legislation further delineates prohibited retaliation to include “threatening, intimidating, disciplining, discharging, demoting, suspending, or harassing an employee, reducing the hours of pay of an employee, and informing another employer that an employee has engaged in activities protected by this chapter.” The legislation also conveys protections to employees who “mistakenly but in good faith” allege violations.

The legislation also expands potential liability by stating that “a causal connection” between any real or anticipated allegation and an employer’s adverse action may be established by “indirect or direct” evidence. Furthermore, retaliation may be established by showing that any protected activity was a “motivating factor” for an adverse action, whether or not other factors motivated the adverse action.

The legislation also expands the penalties section, whereas employers would be fined $500 for each employee covered under an employer’s “official or unofficial policy or practice of not providing or refusing to allow the use of earned time.”

Lastly, the legislation would empower the city’s Corporation Counsel to initiate civil actions against employers for violations of the law. Civil penalties could be imposed of up to $15,000 and $500 for each employee. The current law provides for a complaint-based system.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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