Recently, the New York City Council has passed laws requiring most employers operating in New York City to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and certain paid or unpaid sick leave benefits to their employees in New York City. While many large corporate employers with paid sick leave benefits and robust non-discrimination and disability accommodation policies are likely to already be in compliance with the substantive aspects of these laws, employers should be mindful that there are broad notice requirements associated with both laws that have fast-approaching deadlines.
The amended New York City Human Rights Law now requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. All New York City employers with four or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, unless the employer can prove that the accommodation would cause an undue hardship. Refusal to provide a reasonable accommodation constitutes unlawful discrimination. Examples of reasonable accommodations include: breaks to increase water intake or use the restroom, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, assistance with manual labor, and leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth.
Additionally, the amendment mandates that employers provide certain written notice to new employees who commence their employment and to existing employees. The Commission has published an approved form of notice, which must be distributed to all existing employees by May 30, 2014. New hires should receive the pregnancy accommodation notice in new hire paperwork.
Sick Leave Benefits
New York City’s Earned Sick Time Act, which was recently amended even before it became effective, requires employers of five or more employees to provide accrued, paid sick leave to their employees beginning on April 1, 2014. All employees who are not entitled to paid sick leave under the Earned Sick Time Act must be provided unpaid sick leave.
In general, eligible employees are entitled to accrue at least one hour of sick time for every thirty hours of work, but employers are not required to provide more than forty hours of sick time in a calendar year. Sick leave begins to accrue on the date of hire or April 1, 2014, whichever is later. Notably, employers who provide an employee with other paid leave, including paid time off, vacation, or personal days and allow this paid leave to be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions as required in the Earned Sick Time Act are not required to provide additional paid sick leave. The Earned Sick Time Act also includes certain waiting period provisions and specifies the purposes for which an employee must be afforded the sick leave provided by the Act.
Employers must provide new employees with a written notice of their rights under the Earned Sick Time Act at the commencement of their employment, and, pursuant to a recent amendment to the law, must also provide notice to existing employees. Failure to do so will result in a civil fine not to exceed $50 for each employee who did not receive appropriate notice. The required notice must be distributed to all existing employees by May 1, 2014.
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These new notice burdens follow on the heels of two other prominent New York state law notice requirements that have been imposed on employers in recent years. The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act requires employers to provide each employee in New York with certain personalized notices setting out the employee’s compensation details – including an annual notice to each employee that must be acknowledged by the employee each year in January. Additionally, wage deduction regulations recently promulgated by the New York Department of Labor now require employers to provide notices to employees before making certain types of payroll deductions.