In Case You Hadn’t Heard…New York City Companies Are Now Legally Required To Offer Sick Leave

In June 2013, the New York City Council passed the Earned Sick Time Act (ESTA), extending protection to nearly all workers who must miss work because they or their family members become ill. Then, on February 26, 2014, with the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the City Council voted to strengthen the new law, which finally went into effect on April 1, 2014. According to an information sheet released by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which is responsible for investigating violations of the law and punishing violators, all employees of private companies now accrue sick time at the rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year. For employees of companies that employ five or more, sick time must be paid at the employee’s regular hourly rate; for smaller companies sick time is unpaid. Employers will be able to require employees to give them advance notice that they will claim sick time when such notice is possible, and they may demand documentation from a health care provider when the employee uses accrued sick time for more than three consecutive workdays. However, in all cases employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees who claim forty or fewer hours of sick time per year. Employees who started their jobs prior to April 1, 2014 will become eligible to use their sick days on July 30, 2014; others become eligible 120 days after their first day of employment.

Under the new law, employees are now entitled to carry over up to 40 hours of sick time to the following year, but employers are only required to grant a total of 40 hours in a given year.

Similar laws have been passed, or are currently being debated, by legislative bodies across the country. San Francisco, Washington D.C., Portland, Newark, and Jersey City, NJ have laws similar to New York city’s new law. Connecticut has a statewide sick pay law, which guarantees paid sick leave to non-exempt “service workers” who work for companies with fifty or more employees. Vermont and Massachusetts could be next to enact such measures, and twenty other states and the cities of Chicago, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Eugene, OR have similar legislation currently pending. There have been few prospects of actually passing a paid sick leave law at the federal level, but there has been some activity on the issue: in 2013, Senators Harkin (IA) and DeLauro (CT) introduced The “Healthy Families Act,” which was first introduced in 2004. That legislation has not succeeded thus far, but has steadily picked up cosponsors and votes, and proponents of the law hope the passage of sick pay laws in an increasing number of cities and states will provide enough political momentum to pass a version of the bill.

The proposed federal law has met with predictable resistance from employers, who argued that they would be forced to cut back on jobs or compensation to make up for increased labor costs. However, the data do not bear out such gloomy predictions; for example, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a survey of employers and employees on the effect of San Francisco’s sick pay law, and concluded that “the law is functioning well.” Workers typically do not use all of the sick days they earn. They are also far less likely to send their children to school sick, or to go to work sick themselves, which probably produces a net decrease in the total number of missed work days by employees.

If you are an employee and you believe your rights have been violated, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.