Effective July 18, 2018, New York City's Temporary Schedule Change Law requires private NYC employers to provide employees with temporary changes to their work schedules based on certain "personal events." The employer must grant requests for up to two separate occasions, each totaling one business day, or one occasion for up to two business days, per calendar year.

Who and what is covered by this new law?

A covered employee is any employee who works 80+ hours per calendar year in NYC and has been employed for 120 days or more. Almost all employees are covered. The primary exceptions to coverage are employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement which specifically addresses temporary changes to work schedules, and certain employees in the motion picture, television and live entertainment industries.

A "temporary change" can include:

  • Using short-term unpaid leave;
  • Paid time off;
  • Working remotely; or
  • Swapping or shifting work hours.

A "personal event" can include:

  • The need to care for a child under 18;
  • The need to care for a "care recipient," meaning a person with a disability who is a family or household member and relies on the employee for medical care, or to meet the needs of daily living;
  • The need to attend a legal proceeding or hearing for public benefits to which the employee, a family member, or the employee's minor child or care recipient is a party; or
  • Any other reason covered under NYC's Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law.

Requesting a temporary change

Employees who need a temporary change should request it as soon as practicable. The employee should direct the request to the employer or direct supervisor and should include the date of the change, that the change is for a personal event, and the proposed schedule change. If the employee makes the initial request orally, a written request should follow no later than the second business day after the employee returns to work.

The employer must provide a written response within 14 days including whether the request was granted or denied, identification of the specific change granted or the reason for denial, the number of requests the employee has made for temporary schedule changes, and how many days of temporary schedule changes the employee has remaining for the year. If the employee fails to provide the request in writing, the employer cannot deny the request for this reason, but the employer is no longer required to provide a written response to the request.

Note that employees are not required to submit documentation with their request or provide proof of a "personal event".

Additional considerations for employers

In lieu of the specific schedule change requested by the employee, employers can offer paid or unpaid leave. Be aware, however, that employers cannot require that an employee use his or her earned leave under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law for a temporary schedule change.

Employers should keep all records of requests and responses for three years (unless another law requires retention of the documents for a longer period).

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who request temporary changes. Employees cannot waive their rights under the law and employers should not request such a waiver.

If an employee requests temporary leave, but has already used his or her allotted days, the employer may reject the request, but must still follow the proper procedures for responding.

Employers are required to post a Notice of Employee Rights to temporary changes in their work schedules. Employers should also review the Frequently Asked Questions document posted by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

An employer who fails to comply with this law can be fined $500 per employee for a first violation, and pay compensatory damages or other relief to make a present or former employee whole. The Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Labor Policy & Standards can also seek injunctive relief.

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.