On November 6, 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law an amendment to the NYC Earned Sick Time Act, expanding coverage to New York City workers to now include paid "safe time."
Under the existing law, covered employees have the right to earn and use paid sick leave for the care and treatment of themselves or a family member. Now renamed the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (the Act), employees can use this leave for "safe time." "Safe time" includes situations where an employee or an employee's covered family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking. Employees do not earn more paid time off. It is simply that the Act will allow them to use what was previously just earned "sick" time in these other situations. The Act takes effect on May 5, 2018.
Safe time may be used to address the health, safety and financial repercussions that employees may face due to family offenses, sexual offenses, stalking and human trafficking. More specifically, safe time may be used to obtain relief services from a shelter or crisis center, to participate in safety planning or to relocate, to meet with an attorney or to file a complaint or police report, or to otherwise attend to the physical, psychological or economic wellness of the person(s) affected.
The Act also expands the definition of a "family member," acknowledging that family very often transcends biological boundaries. For both sick time and safe time, now "family members" also may be: any blood relations, persons considered family by close association (i.e. chosen family), ex-spouses or ex-domestic partners, persons who have a child in common regardless of their relationship status or living arrangements, and persons in an intimate relationship regardless of their living arrangements.
The remaining provisions of the Act remain substantively unchanged, with the exception that all provisions now apply to safe time as well as sick time. For example, an employer may require an employee to provide reasonable documentation for an absence of more than three consecutive work days, certifying the safe time was used in compliance with the Act. Likewise, employer notice requirements are updated such that within 30 days of the amended law (or upon hire for new hires), employers must provide all employees with a notice of their right to safe time pursuant to the Act, in addition to the notice of their right to sick time.
In light of these expansions to paid leave, employers should review their existing employment policies and consider what, if any, adjustments need to be made in order to provide the appropriate coverage to their employees. Employers are also reminded that the New York Paid Family Leave law takes effect on January 1, 2018, as do increases to the State's minimum wage.