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New York City Expands Paid Sick Leave to Domestic Violence, Assault and Sex Trafficking Victims

On November 6, 2017, New York City enacted legislation extending its paid sick leave law to include victims of stalking and human trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault, and their family members.  The law, renamed Earned Sick and Safe Time Act, requires employers to allow employees to take paid time off to receive services or attend legal proceedings and health appointments related to those abuses.  The law will become effective on May 5, 2018.

Safe Time

The Earned Sick and Safe Time Act requires employers to allow employees to use such so-called safe time for reasons such as:

  • Obtaining services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis shelter, or other shelter or services program for relief from a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking;

  • •    Participating in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocating, or taking other actions to increase the safety of the employee of employee’s family member from future family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking;

  • •    Meeting with an attorney or other social service provider to obtain information and advice regarding any criminal or civil proceeding, including but not limited to, matters related to family offenses, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking, custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing, discrimination in employment, house or consumer credit;

  • Filing a complaint or a domestic incident report with law enforcement;

  • Meeting with a district attorney’s office;

  • Enrolling children in a new school; or

  • Taking 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. The new law, which also provides leave to a victim’s family member, broadens the definition of “family member” to include chosen families in addition to biological families.

Amount of Leave

The legislation does not add to the total amount of leave that employees are entitled to under the existing paid sick leave law, which permits up to 40 hours of paid sick leave for individuals who work in New York City for at least 80 hours in a year for employers with five or more employees.
Confidentiality

Employers are prohibited from requiring an employee to disclose the details of the employee’s or family member’s status as a victim of family offenses, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking.  If the employer becomes aware of such information, the employer must maintain confidentiality, unless required otherwise by law or through the employee’s written consent.  Such information may be considered in connection with a request for reasonable accommodation under the New York City Human Rights Law.  

Notice

Employers may require reasonable notice of an employee’s need to use safe time.  If the need to use such leave is foreseeable, employers may require an employee to provide reasonable advance notice of no more than seven days.

Documentation

Employers may require “reasonable documentation” for safe time absences of three or more consecutive work days.  Such documentation would include an explanation for the need for leave, without providing details, signed by an employee, agent, or volunteer of a victim services organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional service provider who has assisted the employee or employee’s family member; a police or court record; or a notarized record from the employee.

Employer Tips

In response to the Earned Sick and Safe Time Act, New York employers should expand the scope of their current leave policies to include leave for victims of family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking and human trafficking, and their family members.  This law will be enforced by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Labor Policy and Standards, which can require violators of the law to provide restitution to employees and pay civil penalties.

© Copyright 2019 Sills Cummis & Gross P.C.

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David I. Rosen, Sills Cummis Gross, Wrongful Dismissal Lawyer, Labor Arbitration Attorney
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David I. Rosen has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management clients since 1977. He handles employment litigation in the federal and state courts, before administrative agencies and through arbitration and mediation, and has broad experience with wrongful dismissal and employment discrimination claims, having successfully defended employers following jury and bench trials. His litigation experience extends to the enforcement and defense of restrictive covenants, NLRB unfair labor practice trials and appellate advocacy. Mr. Rosen also represents employers in labor...

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Galit Kierkut, Employment Litigation Attorney, Sills Cummis Gross, Social Media Matters Lawyer
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Galit Kierkut concentrates her practice on employment litigation and counseling. She conducts human resources audits, performs management and employee training in all areas, including sexual harassment, social media and electronic communications use, and counsels clients regarding compliance with state and federal employment laws, including discrimination laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), family and medical leave, and the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. She also reviews and drafts employee handbooks, social media policies and employment contracts, including restrictive covenants and severance agreements. Her employment litigation practice is primarily focused on resolving claims in the areas of discrimination, sexual harassment, restrictive covenants, whistleblowing and employment contract disputes in state and federal courts and before the Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

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Charles Kaplan, Sills Cummis Gross, Labor Employment Attorney, Affirmative Action Matters Lawyer
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Charles H. Kaplan is a Member of the Sills Cummis & Gross Employment and Labor Practice Group and is resident in the Firm’s New York Office.  Mr. Kaplan represents employers in federal and state trial and appellate courts, as well as before enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the U.S. Department of Labor, the New York State Division of Human Rights, the New York State Department of Labor and the New York City Commission on Human Rights.

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