On Monday, Nov. 6, newly re-elected Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law “Intro. 1313-A,” a bill that amends and expands the coverage of New York City’s paid sick leave law. The bill renames the sick leave law as the “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act” (ESTA) and increases the reasons for which an employee is entitled to use paid time off.

Intro. 1313-A implements two major changes. First, the bill expands the types of circumstances for which employers must allow employees to use paid time off. Specifically, an employee may now use paid time off for a wide range of circumstances related to any situation where the employee or “family member” of the employee becomes a victim of a family offense, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking. The bill defines sexual offenses, stalking, human trafficking and family offense matters by reference to the New York Penal Law. An employee’s use of paid time off for any of these circumstances is referred to as “safe time.”

If an employee or family member has been the victim of a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking, the employee can use safe time to do any of the following:

  • Obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other shelter or services program.
  • Participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee’s family members from future family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking.
  • Meet with a civil attorney or other social service provider to obtain information and advice on, and prepare for or participate in, any criminal or civil proceeding, including but not limited to matters related to a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, human trafficking, custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing, or discrimination in employment, housing or consumer credit.
  • File a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement.
  • Meet with a district attorney’s office.
  • Enroll children in a new school.
  • Take other actions necessary to maintain, improve or restore the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.

Although the creation of safe time allows employees to use paid time off for a wider variety of reasons, employers are not required to increase the total number of hours for paid time off available to their employees.

Second, the bill broadens the definition of “family member” for both sick and safe time to also include “any other individual related by blood to the employee; and any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” This amendment provides employees with significant flexibility in determining who qualifies as a family member for whom they may use sick time or safe time.

Consistent with the previous version of ESTA, employers may require employees to provide up to seven days’ advance notice of a foreseeable need to use safe time and notice as soon as practicable for unforeseeable absences.

The bill will go into effect on May 5, 2018 (180 days after the signing into law by Mayor de Blasio). Employers will be required to update their written policies and provide written notice to existing employees of their right to accrue and use safe time before June 4, 2018 (within 30 days of the effective date of the expanded law). Employees starting after June 4, 2018, must be informed at the commencement of employment of their right to use safe time.

The Bottom Line: Employers should review their existing paid leave policies to ensure compliance with the expanded coverage provided by ESTA. Specifically, employers will want to ensure their paid time off policy clearly identifies the reasons an employee may use sick time and safe time as enumerated in ESTA. Additionally, any written policy should include an explanation of the newly expanded definition of “family member.