Seyfarth Synopsis: New York’s Paid Family Leave program continues to expand in 2019 and employers should be aware of important updates, including the increase to 10 weeks of leave, the 55% wage replacement, and the expansion of the definition of “serious health condition” to include organ donors. Additionally, Governor Cuomo recently issued a veto memorandum outlining his reasons for rejecting the addition of bereavement leave.

Changes for 2019

Beginning in 2019, employees may take up to 10 weeks of New York Paid Family Leave (“NYPFL”) for qualifying events, including bonding with a new child, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, or assisting loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service. The 2019 benefit was also increased to 55% of the employee’s average weekly wage, which is capped at 55% of the state’s average weekly wage. The average weekly wage in New York State for 2019 is $1,357.11.

Employers should be aware that as of February 3, 2019, the definition of “serious health condition” will be expanded to include preparation and recovery from surgery related to organ or tissue donation.

Cuomo’s Bereavement Leave Veto

Governor Cuomo recently vetoed Senate Bill 8380-A. which would have amended Article 9 of the Workers’ Compensation Law to add bereavement leave to the already-existing categories of leave covered by NYPFL. In support of this action, the Governor issued a veto memorandum. in which he outlined his chief concerns with the bill as currently drafted.

The Governor focused on there being no provision regarding the time during which the leave could be taken. This point was highlighted by contrasting the proposed bereavement leave with existing bonding leave. Whereas bonding leave must be taken within 12 months of the qualifying event, bereavement leave under the Senate Bill contained no similar restriction, leading to a virtually limitless amount of leave, especially if taken intermittently.

Although bereavement leave will not be permitted under the law this year, the Governor pledged to work with the Legislature to resolve the issues he identified in his veto memorandum, leaving the possibility that bereavement leave may be revived in the future. We will continue to monitor and track developments regarding NYPFL.

Employer Takeaways

As most policies will require revision by February 3, 2019 to expand the definition of “serious health condition,” this is a good opportunity for employers to assess whether their policies and procedures, including payroll practices, are compliant with NYPFL. Contact your Seyfarth Shaw attorney for advice and best practices.