Employees who work in New York are legally entitled to time off from work for a number of reasons, such as illness and caring for family members. Under a new law, employees can sue employers who penalize them for taking legally protected time off and recover damages from their employers, including back pay, front pay, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, and, if applicable, reinstatement.
New York Lawful Absence Law
The New York Lawful Absence Law, which clarifies and bolsters existing labor law, took effect February 23, 2023. The law prohibits employers from firing, threatening, assessing points, discriminating against, or otherwise retaliating against employees for absences that are protected under federal, state, and local laws, including legally protected time off for sickness, disability, pregnancy, caregiving obligations, domestic violence, jury duty, voting, and blood donation.
All workers in New York State are protected by the law, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. In a statement announcing the law, New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon discussed the purpose of the law, saying that “Employees should not have to fear for their jobs when taking legally protected time away from work.”
Cracking down on “no-fault” attendance policies
One of the goals of the new law is to eliminate so-called no-fault attendance policies, through which some employers assess points or demerits to employees who miss work, regardless of the reason for the absence. When an employee reaches a certain number of points or demerits, a specific disciplinary action is triggered. The new law makes it illegal to assign points or demerits for lawful absences.
Bringing a lawsuit against your employer
If your employer penalizes you for taking legally protected time off, the new law allows you to sue your employer directly in court for all appropriate relief. For instance, if you were fired because you took time off to care for a sick family member as allowed under the New York State Paid Family Leave, the Lawful Absence Law allows you to sue your employer for lost pay, liquidated damages, and attorneys’ fees, in addition to seeking reinstatement to your job. You have two years from the date of the violation to file a lawsuit.
Protect your rights
If you were fired, penalized, threatened, or otherwise retaliated against for taking legally protected time off from work, discuss the matter with an experienced employment attorney to determine the best course of action in your situation. Contact Katz Melinger PLLC at 212-460-0047 or online.