Earlier this month, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act” into law. The new law, which will take effect on May 5, 2018, expands the purposes for which employees may use sick leave, broadens the definition of covered family members, and imposes new notice and recordkeeping requirements on employers. The law does not increase the total amount of leave employees are entitled to under the city’s existing sick leave ordinance.

Purposes For Which “Safe Leave” May Be Taken

The law will require that eligible employees be permitted to use “safe leave” when they or a covered family member have been the victim of a wide range of offenses, including but not limited to human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. When an employee or covered family member has been the victim of a covered offense, safe leave may be taken for any of the following purposes:

  • To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other shelter or services program;
  • To participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or family member;
  • To 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, discrimination in employment, housing or consumer credit;
  • To file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement;
  • To meet with a district attorney’s office;
  • To enroll children in a new school; or
  • To take other actions necessary to maintain, improve, or restore the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.

Expanded “Family Member” Definition

The law significantly broadens the definition of “family member,” which will now also include any individual related to the employee by blood and any individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. Prior to the amendment, “family members” included the employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild or grandparent, or the child or parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner.

Existing reasonable notice and documentation requirements will also apply to safe leave absences. Employers may require reasonable notice from employees of their need to use safe time. Where such need is foreseeable, an employer may require reasonable advance notice—not to exceed seven days—of the employee’s intention to use safe leave. If the need for safe leave is not foreseeable, the employer may require the employee to provide notice of the need for leave as soon as practicable.

For absences of more than three consecutive work days, employers may require employees to provide reasonable documentation that the use of sick time was for a covered purpose. However, just as employers may not currently require employees to disclose details relating to their own or their family member’s medical condition, employers may not require employees to disclose details relating to their status as a victim of family offenses, sexual offenses, stalking, or human trafficking.

Existing law requires employers to provide new employees written notice of their right to sick leave, including information about accrual and use of sick leave, the calendar year recognized by the employer, and the employee’s right to be free from retaliation for using or requesting sick leave. No later than May 5, 2018, employers must revise existing notices to inform employees of their right to safe time under the new law. In addition, existing employees who have already received notice of their right to sick time must receive notice of their new right to safe leave no later than June 4, 2018.

Next Steps. In addition to updating the required notice of employee rights, employers should ensure that their handbooks and written policies are updated to reflect the new law’s requirements. With the increasing number of local employment-related ordinances, legal compliance is becoming increasingly complex. Employers should reach out to their counsel for solutions and recommendations.