New York Paid Sick Leave Law Provides Needed Relief
Sick leave is not mandated by law in all of the states in the US. In fact, there are only a few cities that currently have laws requiring businesses to provide sick leave for their employees. These include Portland in Oregon, Seattle, San Francisco, and now New York City. Cities in Connecticut require it only in selected industries.
The legislators in New York City had to override a veto by the mayor to pass the law in the city, a move that would have significance for more than a million employees. This is in line with the work-life balance movement that is pushing for similar laws in other states. The rationale behind the law is that workers should not have to choose between financial considerations and physical health. Many employees cannot afford to lose a day’s wages even if they are legitimately indisposed.
The New York City law, called the Earned Sick Time Act, is embodied under N.Y. City Admin. Code §§ 20-911 to 20-924, and passed on June 26, 2013, but there are quite a few ifs and buts. The law is supposed to come into effect on April 1, 2014, but only if the city’s economy improves by December 2013 based on the economic index of January 2012. If not, the provisions may be delayed until the economy picks up. The city’s Independent Budget Council will be monitoring economic indicators every 6 months, and once the target improvement is reached, the provisions of the Act goes into effect either the next April or October, whichever comes first.
The new employment law will be imposed only on business with 20 or more employees for the first 18 months after the law comes into effect, and then to employers with 15 or more employees. Public employers and government offices are exempted. Eligible employees are those who work in New York City for at 80 hours in a calendar year. Such employees can avail of a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave a year. Employees who are not eligible may still avail of 40 hours of unpaid sick leave a year.
The Act allows eligible employees to apply for sick leave if they themselves are sick, or if a spouse, partner, child or parent needs medical attention. The Act’s provisions may have a significant financial impact on a business, especially small ones, which is why the fraudulent use of the benefit may be considered cause for termination.