On May 8, 2013, the City Council passed a bill that requires covered employers to provide paid sick leave to eligible employees (the "Act"). The 45-to-3 vote provided more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a mayoral veto. As a result of the new legislation, New York City will join Connecticut, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and the District of Columbia as the newest and largest jurisdiction requiring private employers to provide mandatory sick leave benefits.
Under the Act, employers in New York City with 20 or more employees must provide at least 5 paid sick days each year beginning April 1, 2014. As of October 1, 2015, the Act expands, applying to employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that fall below these thresholds will be required to give their employees at least five unpaid sick days annually. Sick leave includes absence due to (1) the employee's mental or physical health; (2) caring for a sick family member; or (3) closure of the employee's place of business or the employee's child's school as a result of an order by a public official or a public health emergency.
While sick leave begins to accrue immediately upon commencement of employment, employees must have worked for at least four months before taking any accrued sick leave. Eligible employees earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked regardless of whether they are employed full-time or part-time. The law specifically excludes seasonal workers and student interns.
Additionally, the Act contains a "reverse trigger" that delays the legislation from going into effect if the City's economy slows down as measured by a financial index kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Finally, the Act contains anti-retaliation provisions that preclude employers from taking adverse action against an employee who takes advantage of the benefit conferred by the Act. However, an aggrieved employee must first file a complaint with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs ("DCA"). Only after the DCA has issued a determination can the affected employee sue in court, and only to contest the DCA's decision.
In light of the Act, all New York City employers should review their record retention policies to ensure that in the future they reflect and retain the necessary information, including the number of hours worked by employees and the amount of sick time accrued and used. If current records do not capture and retain this type of information, employers will need to change their policies to come into compliance. Employers that already have paid sick leave policies should also review their policies to ensure that they meet the minimum requirements of the Act.