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New York State’s fiscal year 2021 budget bill creates new sick leave requirements


The upcoming months and year will bring changes to sick leave requirements across New York state beginning on September 30, 2020.

Starting on January 1, 2021, employers must allow eligible employees to use their earned sick time and return to their job after taking legitimate sick time. Further, employers may not retaliate against employees for exercising their rights under the paid sick leave law.

Sick time requirements by employer size

The bill creates a tiered system of sick time eligibility with job protection based on the number of employees:

· Employers with at least 100 employees: The employer must provide at least seven paid sick days annually.

· Employers with at least five employees and less than 100 employees: The employer must provide at least five paid sick days annually.

· Employers with four or less employees: The employer must provide at least five days of unpaid sick leave annually, unless the employer’s net income is more than $1 million. In that case, these sick time hours must be paid. If the company already provides paid sick leave, the company may continue to do so.

An employer may either grant the annual sick time total at the beginning of the year or offer it at an accrued rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours on the job. Any employer may provide more generous benefits than the minimum requirements, and cities with at least one million people may enact local laws mandating a greater number of sick days.

Broad definitions of sick leave and family members

The legislation allows an employee to use sick time for a wide range of problems, including:

· Physical or mental illness

· Injury of self or a family member

· Medical appointments, care, treatment or preventative care of these conditions for self or a family member

· A wide variety of actions related to protection of self or a family member who has been a victim of domestic violence, family offenses, sexual offenses, human trafficking or stalking

Family members, for these purposes, include the employee’s child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild or grandparent, as well as the child or parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner. Parent-child relationships constitute those that are biological, foster, adoptive, guardian-ward and in loco parentis (parent-child relationship even if not biological or legal). Parent can also mean stepparent.

The law also requires employers to protect certain confidential information in addition to keeping relevant records available to employees.

The New York State Department of Labor may enact regulations to carry out the provisions of the legislation and must “conduct a public awareness outreach campaign” to inform employers and employees of the new requirements.

New York employers can seek guidance from a knowledgeable employment attorney to understand their new obligations. Similarly, employees who believe that their employers may not be complying may also seek legal advice.

(The bill is available here, and the new New York Labor Law section 196-b is in Part J, section 1.)

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