Why it matters

Workers in New York City will soon be able take leave for a “personal event,” with employers required to provide temporary schedule changes upon request. The bill—which became law after it was passed by the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio neither signed nor vetoed it—permits an employee to request a temporary change to his or her work schedule because of a “personal event” no more than twice in a calendar year, for up to one business day per request. The term “personal event” includes the need to provide care for a minor child or other care recipient, the need to attend certain legal proceedings, and any other circumstance that constitutes a permissible use of safe or sick time under city law. In addition, the new law protects employees from retaliation for schedule change requests. Certain exemptions apply, such as employees who have worked for the employer for fewer than 120 days or fewer than 80 hours in the city in a calendar year. The law takes effect on July 18.

Detailed discussion

In December 2017, the New York City Council passed Int. 1299-A, which requires an employer to grant an employee’s request for a temporary change of work schedule because of a “personal event.” When Mayor Bill de Blasio failed to sign or veto the bill, it became law on Jan. 19, 2018.

Pursuant to the new law, employees are entitled to two “personal event” requests in a calendar year for up to one business day per request, although employers may fulfill their obligation by permitting a worker to use two business days for one request.

The law defines a “personal event” to include “the need for a caregiver to provide care to a minor child or care recipient,” “an employee’s need to attend a legal proceeding or hearing for subsistence benefits to which the employee, a family member or the employee’s care recipient is a party,” or “any circumstance that would constitute a basis for permissible use of safe or sick time” pursuant to city law.

Employees must notify their direct supervisor or employer as soon as they become aware of the need for a temporary work schedule change, and must signal the change is due to a personal event. While the initial request does not need to be in writing, the employee must submit a written request as soon as practicable, but no later than the second business day after the employee returns to work after the temporary change.

If the employee fails to put the request in writing, then the employer’s required written response is waived. If the employee does provide a written request, the employer must provide a written response within 14 days detailing whether the employer agrees to the request (and if the change will be without pay, which does not constitute a denial); if the request is denied, a reason for the denial; and the number of requests and business days remaining for the employee’s calendar year.

Denial may be warranted if the employee has already exhausted his or her two requests or if one of the limited exemptions applies. The law excludes workers covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that waives the provisions of the bill and addresses temporary changes to work schedules, employees who have been employed by the employer for fewer than 120 days, and employees who work fewer than 80 hours in the city in a calendar year.

Another exemption covers employers whose primary business for which the employee works is “the development, creation or distribution of theatrical motion pictures, televised motion pictures, television programs or live entertainment presentations” except for related office work and routine physical work.

Int. 1399-A prohibits retaliation for schedule change requests not just for personal events but for other schedule changes as well, requiring the same process of written requests and responses.

Employers who violate the law can be liable for an administrative penalty (payable to the employee) in the amount of $500. If an employer fails to provide the required written response, it can remedy the violation by giving the response to the employee within seven days of being notified of the failure.

The law takes effect July 18. If employees are covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement in effect on that date, the law will take effect on the date that agreement terminates.

To read Int. 1399-A, click here.