Paid Sick Leave Act

New Yorkers may start using earned leave time next month. On April 25, 2014, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce hosted a Paid Sick Leave Forum at the Brooklyn Public Library to help explain the City’s newly implemented Earned Sick Time Act, also known as the Paid Sick Leave Law. The forum focused on helping employers understand their responsibilities under the law and ensuring their compliance with the rules. Representatives from the Mayor’s Office and Department of Consumer Affairs explained the purpose of the law, spoke about the requirements and how it affects employers, and answered questions from the audience.

The Paid Sick Leave Law mandates that employers must give qualified employees paid sick leave, which employees can use for the care or treatment of themselves or a family member. The purpose of the law is to create a productive workforce with healthy families, and protect employees from having to choose between losing their job or caring for themselves or family. Under the law, employers with five or more employees who are hired to work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid sick leave, while employers with less than five employees must provide unpaid sick leave. The law does not cover independent contractors, but Consumer Affairs stressed the importance of ensuring that the person is actually an independent contractor and not an employee. Employers were required to issue a “Notice of Employee Rights” to existing employees on or before May 1, 2014 and to new employees when they first begin. Under the law, an employee accrues one hour of sick leave for every thirty hours worked, for up to 40 hours of sick leave. Employers may require an employee to produce a note from a medical provider if the employer uses three or more sick days at a time, but cannot require the employee to disclose the medical condition. An employer may also ask employees to state that they used sick leave for documentation purposes. The law requires employers to maintain records documenting sick leave for at least three years to show compliance, but does not specify a method for recordkeeping.

Consumer Affairs is responsible for the enforcement of the Paid Sick Leave Law. An employee has two years from the date of the violation to file a complaint with Consumer Affairs. The employer then has a 30 day period to provide a response. To help employers transition into compliance, Consumer Affairs stated it will not issue fines against businesses with 1-19 employees for noncompliance until October 2014. Consumer Affairs stated that because the purpose of the law was to foster a healthy and productive workplace environment, the agency will focus on mediation, rather than issuing fines, to help employers become compliant. If mediation is unsuccessful, however, Consumer Affairs may issue a violation.

Throughout the forum, Consumer Affairs encouraged participants to submit any questions in writing so that new questions could be added to the growing “Frequently Asked Questions” list available on their website. More information for employers and employees and questions regarding the Paid Sick Leave Law is available: here. On July 30, 2014, New Yorkers can start using earned leave under the Law.

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