New York City Amends Its Paid Sick Leave Rules
In yet another sign that cities and states are still figuring out how to enact mandatory paid sick leave laws, New York City recently made several changes to its rules to clarify such gray areas as the treatment of temporary workers and what kind of written policies employers must provide.
New York City, which originally adopted its Earned Sick Time Act in 2013, is one of a number of cities and states that has started requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to workers—something the federal government does not require of private employers. On the state level, paid sick leave laws went into effect last year in California and Massachusetts.
New York City's amendments to its paid sick leave rules went into effect March 4, 2016. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Temporary Firms
The amendments define a "temporary help firm" as an "organization that recruits and hires its own employees and assigns those employees to perform work or services for another organization."
It is up to such temporary firms to make sure they are complying with the requirements of New York City's Earned Sick Time Act when it comes to the workers they are placing.
2. Clarifying How Businesses Count Their Workers
Under New York City's paid sick leave requirements, for-profit and nonprofit employers with five or more workers must provide paid sick leave. Those with four or fewer workers still must allow sick leave, but are not required to pay workers during that time.
The new amendments clarify how to count workers to determine whether a worker should be paid for sick time. The amended rules state it should be based on counting the number of employees performing work for an employer for compensation per week at the time the employee uses sick time. If the number of employees fluctuates, it should be calculated for the current calendar year based on the average number of employees per week during the previous calendar year. This method does not apply to employers who have less than a year in business.
3. Written Policies
Employers were already required to distribute a Notice of Rights under the Earned Sick Time Act. Now the city requires employers to provide their workers with their own written sick time policies as well. The written policies, which may be posted or distributed, should include the employer's method of calculating sick time under the rules of the Earned Sick Time Act, as well as the employer's policies regarding the use of sick time.
An employer cannot deny a worker sick time or payment for sick time where permissible under the law and based on its own policy if it has not provided a written copy of the policy to the worker.
4. Minimum Increments
The recent amendments also provide more clarity on the minimum increments of sick time an employer may require an employee to use. Under the previous rules, the minimum increment could not go beyond four hours. Now, employers are also allowed to set fixed periods of 30 minutes or any smaller amount of time for the use of accrued sick time beyond the minimum increment.
Here's an example from the amended rules of how this could work in practice: An employee has a 9 a.m. doctor's appointment. The employer has a four-hour minimum increment, so she takes four hours of paid sick time between 8 a.m. and noon. But what if she then realizes that she's not going to get back until 12:15 p.m.? The employer could have a rule that it needs to be an extra 30 minutes at a time, so the worker takes another half an hour off and returns at 12:30 p.m.
5. Tougher Record Keeping Requirements
The amended Earned Sick Time Act clarifies that employers need to keep three years' worth of records demonstrating their compliance with the Act. An employer must maintain records for each employee, showing information such as name, phone number, address, the time period they were employed at the business, their pay rate, weekly hours worked, sick time taken, and sick pay provided. The employer must also retain details regarding when a copy of the Notice of Rights was given to the worker, and be able to provide proof that the employee actually received it.
Additional changes beyond these highlights were also made to New York City's Earned Sick Time Act under the amendments. More information is available on the New York City government website.