On February 26, 2014, the New York City Council, by a vote of 46 to 5, passed a bill, Int. No. 1-A-2014 (the “Bill”), amending the New York City Earned Sick Time Act to provide that effective April 1, 2014, among other revisions, employers in New York City which employ five to 14 employees must give each employee one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to five days per calendar year. (Employers in New York City with fewer than 15 employees were outside the scope of the Earned Sick Time Act as originally enacted.) Newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to sign, into law, the Council’s Bill amending the Earned Sick Time Act.
The Earned Sick Time Act, As Initially Enacted
By way of background, in June 2013, the New York City Council enacted the Earned Sick Time Act, Local Law 46 of 2013 (the “New York City Earned Sick Time Act,” the “Earned Sick Time Act,” the “Act,” or the “NYCESTA”). Effective April 1, 2014, and if certain economic benchmarks are met, the Earned Sick Time Act, as initially enacted, required employers in New York City which employ 20 or more employees to give each employee one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to five days per calendar year. So, too, effective October 1, 2015, and if the same economic benchmarks are met, the Act, as originally enacted, compelled businesses in New York City which employ 15 to 19 employees to give each employee one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to five days per calendar year.
The Newly Passed Bill’s Amendments To The Earned Sick Time Act
The changes which the February 26, 2014 Bill makes to the New York City Earned Sick Time Act include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The Bill lowers, from 15 to five, the minimum number of employees whom an employer must employ to be subject to the NYCESTA’s paid sick time requirements. Mayor De Blasio states that the Bill’s amendments to the NYCESTA will extend paid sick leave to 500,000 workers who were not covered by the NYCESTA as initially enacted.
- The Council has eliminated the exemption which the Earned Sick Time Act formerly provided to employers in the manufacturing industry.
- The Act will take effect for all employers on April 1, 2014 — less than a month from now. The Bill gets rid of the requirement that certain economic benchmarks be met before the NYCESTA takes effect. Further, businesses in New York City which employ 15 to 19 workers must comply with the NYCESTA beginning April 1, 2014, rather than (as under the original Act) beginning October 1, 2015.
- The Bill undertakes to speed up the administrative proceedings which the Earned Sick Time Act authorizes the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (the “Department of Consumer Affairs” or the “NYCDCA”) to prosecute against employers which violate the Act. Specifically, the Bill requires, within 30 days after any person files a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs alleging that an employer has violated the NYCESTA, that the employer provide the NYCDCA with a written response and with any other information that the NYCDCA requests.
- The Council has lengthened, from 270 days to two years, the period after a person knew or should have known of a business’s violation of the NYCESTA in which the person may file an administrative complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs.
- The Bill extends, from two years to three years, the period of time for which employers must retain records documenting the employers’ compliance with the Earned Sick Time Act.
Take-Aways for Employers
By April 1, 2014, employers in New York City must modify their policies regarding absence because of illness to conform to the Earned Sick Time Act.
Further, beginning on April 1, 2014, employers in New York City must provide to each new employee, at the commencement of employment, written notice of the employee’s right to sick time under the NYCESTA, including the accrual and use of sick time, the calendar year of the employer, and the right to be free from retaliation and to bring a complaint to the Department of Consumer Affairs. N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 20-919. The written notice must be in English and in the primary language spoken by that employee, provided that the NYCDCA has made available a translation of the notice in that language. Id. § 20-919. Also beginning April 1, each employer in New York City must conspicuously post such written notice at the employer’s place of business in an area accessible to all employees. Id.
The Department of Consumer Affairs is required to, but to date has not, made available on its website, for use by employers in New York City, model, written notices of workers’ rights under the Earned Sick Time Act. The NYCDCA’s failure so far to make available model notices does not relieve employers of their obligations, beginning on April 1, 2014, to distribute and post such notices.