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New York City Passes Earned Sick Time Act; Expects to Override Mayor Bloomberg's Threatened Veto Yet Again

By Michael S. Arnold

As expected, the New York City Council has passed the Earned Sick Time Act, which, if enacted, will require most City employers to provide job-protected sick leave, whether paid or unpaid, to the more than 1.6 million employees who currently do not receive this benefit.  As with the recently-passed unemployment discrimination law, the Earned Sick Time Act passed with an overwhelming majority and we expect the Council to override any Mayoral veto. 

Enactment of the law is tied to something called the New York City Coincident Economic Index, which tracks economic activity across New York City on a monthly basis.  If economic conditions do not deteriorate significantly between now and December 16, 2013 – meaning that if the Index is at or above its January 2012 level on December 16, 2013 – then the law will go into effect on that date.  Given that the Index has increased steadily over the last year, commentators consider it unlikely to reverse course by December. 

The law affects businesses depending on their size.  Employers with 20 or more employees must begin providing paid sick time on April 1, 2014.  Employers with more than 15 employees but less than 20 employees must begin providing paid sick time on October 1, 2015.  Those employers not required to provide paid sick time must still provide unpaid sick beginning on April 1, 2014. 

The full text of the Act is available here, but highlights include:

  • Employees earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave accrued per year. 
  • Employers that already provide at least 5 days of any kind of paid time off (i.e., personal days, vacation and, obviously, sick leave) would not be required to provide any additional sick time, either paid or unpaid, under the law. 
  • Employees can carry over accrued sick time to the following calendar year, subject to the 40-hour cap.  In the alternative, an employer may pay its employees for any accrued but unused sick time at the end of a calendar year. 
  • There is no requirement to pay out accrued but unused sick time upon termination. 
  • Employees can use sick time to care for their own illness or medical condition or that of a family member, among other things.
  • Employers cannot retaliate against employees for using or attempting to use sick time or for complaining about a violation of the law.
  • Employers will be tasked with certain notification and recordkeeping obligations, including providing employees with notice of their rights under the law in multiple languages. 
  • Employees cannot assert a private right of action to remedy violations; rather, they must go through the Department of Consumer Affairs. 

We will revisit this law, including its various notice and recordkeeping requirements, as the implementation deadline nears. 

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Martha Zackin