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Update: NYC Amends Earned Safe and Sick Time Act; Westchester County Adopts Earned Sick Leave Law

Westchester County adopted a law on Earned Sick Leave in 2019. Prior to that in 2018, New York City amended its paid sick leave law and renamed it the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act. The changes include written notice/policy requirements, expanded reasons for leave, and a broader definition of a family member.

Effective July 10, 2019, employees who work in Westchester County for more than 80 hours in a calendar year are entitled to sick leave under the Earned Sick Leave Law. Under the law, covered employees have the right to use sick leave for the care and treatment of themselves or a family member. 

Covered employers must give covered employees a copy of the Earned Sick Leave law and written notice of their rights to sick leave.  Sample notices, FAQs, and an office poster are available on the Westchester County Earned Sick Leave webpage

New York City  

In yet another sign that cities and states are still figuring out how to implement mandatory paid sick leave laws, New York City released updated rules and new FAQs, currently in effect, to reflect and clarify amendments that were effective May of 2018.

New York City is one of more than 40 cities and states that require employers to provide paid safe and sick time leave to workers — something the federal government does not require of private employers.

New York City has amended its paid sick leave law twice since it became effective on April 1, 2014. The most recent amendments recently renamed the law the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA), included among several changes are revised ESSTA written notice/policy requirements, expanded qualified reasons for leave under the Act, and a broader definition of family member.   

Employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid safe and sick leave to employees under the NYC ESSTA. Smaller employers must provide unpaid safe and sick leave. Eligible employees accrue safe and sick leave at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours per calendar year, beginning on their first day of employment.

Employees can begin using accrued leave 120 days after their first day of work. Employees must be permitted to carry over up to 40 hours of unused safe and sick leave from one calendar year to the new calendar year. Alternatively, employers may choose to frontload safe and sick leave on the first day of a new calendar year, relieving them of the carry over provisions of the law.

New Policy Requirements

Employers were already required to distribute a Notice of Rights to all employees and maintain a company policy. Clarification in the newly released guidance related to an employer’s obligation to also maintain and distribute to employees a separate company policy ‘in a single writing’ also indicates such distribution must occur upon hire; within 14 days of the effective date of any change made to the policy; and upon request by an employee. Distribution of the company policy may be satisfied via hard copy or via electronic transmission (e.g., email). The amended rules also broaden and clarify the required elements of a compliant policy.

Expanded Definition of ‘Family Member’

The amendments change who may be considered a “family member” under the Act, adding any individual whose close association with the employee is equivalent of a family relationship; the resulting guidance found in the FAQs offers examples.

Expanded Use of Leave

The law, as amended last May, also allows employees to use their paid leave as ‘safe time’ in circumstances where they or a family member have been the victim of any act or threat of domestic violence, unwanted sexual contact, stalking, or human trafficking to plan their next steps and focus on safety without fear of penalty.

Domestic Worker Clarification

The newly released guidance also clarifies the definition for domestic workers. The definition does not include “any person employed by an agency whenever such person provides services as an employee of such agency regardless of whether such person is jointly employed by an individual or private household in the provision of such services.”

The above information is only a limited summary of the most recent changes and current provisions of the NYC Earned Safe and Time Act. Employers are encouraged to review the many resources available for NYC’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law including the official Employee Notice of Rights, links to the Act, official rules, and FAQs, as well as tools and trainings, many available in additional languages.

Paychex continues to monitor developments related to safe and sick time legislation and regulations across the country. Look for additional articles on Paychex WORX.


Tammy Tyler

Tammy Tyler is an employment law compliance manager at Paychex, Inc., a leading provider of integrated solutions for payroll, HR, retirement, and insurance services.

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