By today, June 4, 2018, New York City employers need to provide their employees notice of an amendment to the Earned Sick Time Act (“ESTA”). The amendment allows for “safe leave” and also expands the meaning of “family members” under the law. This article will summarize the amendment and the relevant changes in the law, in order to supplement our March 2014 article on the ESTA.
On May 5, the law amending the Earned Sick Time Act came into effect, changing the name to the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (“ESSTA”) and allowing employees to use paid time off (“PTO”) if they or their family members are victims of domestic violence and other domestic offenses. Employers must immediately update their sick time policies to reflect the change and distribute the new “Notice of Employee Rights” to all their existing employees by today, June 4, 2018, or to future employees at the time of employment.
Addition of “Safe Time” to the Act
The new law provides for employees to use PTO for “safe time” in addition to sick time. If an employee or an employee’s family member is the victim of domestic violence, unwanted sexual contact, stalking, or human trafficking, the employee is permitted to use safe time to:
- Obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other services program;
- Participate in safety planning, relocate, or take other actions to protect the safety of the employee or their family members, including enrolling children in a new school;
- Meet with an attorney or social service provider to obtain information and advice related to custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing, discrimination in employment, discrimination in housing, or discrimination in consumer credit;
- File a domestic incident report with law enforcement; or
- Meet with a District Attorney’s office.
Broadened Definition of “Family Members”
ESSTA also expands the definition of “family members.” Employees may use PTO not only for their own needs, but also for the needs of family members who are the victims. Previously, qualifying family members were limited to spouses, partners, children, parents, siblings, grandchildren and grandparents. Now, under ESSTA, “family members” include “any other individual related by blood to the employee” and “any other individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of family.” This broader definition allows employees to use PTO to attend to the health and safety of more extended family and even close friends.
Employers can Require “Reasonable Documentation” for Safe Leave
ESSTA still allows employers to require “reasonable documentation” if the employee uses the leave for more than three consecutive workdays. For sick time use, employers can still require the documentation be signed by a licensed health care provider. For safe time use, employers can require documentation which includes: (1) documentation signed by a social service provider; (2) documentation signed by a member of the clergy; (3) documentation signed by an attorney; (4) court or police records; or (5) a notarized letter by the employee explaining the need for safe leave. ESSTA prohibits employers from requiring the employee to specify the reason for safe or sick leave.
What Employers Need to do
Employers in New York City need to immediately update their policies to comply with the amendments and distribute the Notice of Employee Rights to all employees, if they have not done so. The New York Department of Consumer Affairs has already begun auditing employers for compliance. Any New York City employer who is found in violation of the notice requirement can be fined up to $50 for each employee who was not given the Notice of Employee Rights.