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New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law Protects Workers

As of July 30, 2014, most employers in New York City are required to extend up to 40 hours in paid leave time annually to workers who are sick. The law, one of the first of its kind in the country, is applicable not just to large institutions, but also to small businesses and non-profits.

While many companies do offer workers paid leave, along with other benefits, there are many industries where this is not the norm. Research by the Economic Policy Institute indicated 4 in 10 employers in the private sector do not provide paid medical leave, with low-wage workers in the service industries being the least likely to have this benefit. Others who commonly miss out include those who work in child care centers and nursing homes.

That means many workers feel compelled to come to work even when they are sick, risking the spread of diseases and further hampering workplace productivity.

As of this writing, there are no federal legal requirements that mandate employers extend paid sick leave. Most companies are subject to compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which guarantees workers up to 12 weeks in a year to cope with illness or medical condition, either their own or a family member’s. However, in order to be eligible, workers must have put in at least 1,250 hours over the previous year to qualify. They also must be employed by a company with at least 50 workers within a 75-mile radius. Such leave is unpaid.

New York City’s sick time leave law is much more inclusive, and goes much farther to protect workers’ rights. It holds that any worker who puts in more than 80 hours of work annually can earn up to 40 hours of sick leave in that same time frame. That time off can be used to care for either yourself or a member of your family.

Qualifying employers must offer this paid sick leave if they employ five or more workers in the city. If the company has fewer than five workers, they must offer unpaid sick leave.

Domestic workers are entitled to two days of paid sick leave, so long as those workers have been employed for more than a year. This is on top of the three days of paid rest to which workers are entitled under New York State’s Labor Law.

To raise awareness and promote compliance with the new measure, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs has launched a series of television advertisements, which are aired in English and Spanish on local affiliate stations. Additionally, the city has mailed letters to some 400,000 companies, informing them of the law.

But old habits die hard, and it’s likely some employers will try to skirt the law.

As of yet, New York state has not enacted a similar measure. In fact, the only state that has done so is Connecticut, though New Jersey is weighing a bill that would grant workers one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Cities that have enacted such measures include Seattle, Wa., Portland, Ore. and Jersey City, NJ. Numerous other cities were successful in getting measures on the ballot for a vote this November.

These kinds of actions are important, considering a 2012 study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated a lack of paid sick leave was a major reason many Americans did not seek preventative care, such as cancer testing. The research also indicated expansion of sick leave policies might help to cut the number of non-fatal work injuries, particularly in industries considered high-risk.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides employment litigation representation in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or send us an e-mail.

Additional Resources:
NYC’s Paid Sick leave Law, New York City Department of Consumer Affairs
More Blog Entries:
New York City Employment Retaliation Claim Results in Costly Settlement, April 25, 2012, New York City Sick Leave Lawyer Blog