On June 26, 2013, New York’s City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto and adopted the “Earned Sick Time Act,” making New York City the largest municipality in the country requiring employers to provide paid medical leave. The far-reaching law requires that employers provide up to five days (40 hours) of paid medical leave per year to employees. Provided that certain economic thresholds are met, the law will presumably go into effect on April 1, 2014 for businesses with 20 or more employees. Notwithstanding a number of narrow exceptions (e.g., government workers, independent contractors, and manufacturing employees), the law applies to any employee who works in New York City at least 80 hours per year.

Sick time is accrued at the rate of one hour per every 30 hours worked, and may be used for: (1) an employee’s physical or mental illness or medical care; (2) the physical or mental illness or medical care of a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent; or (3) declared public health emergencies that result in the closure of a place of business, school, or childcare provider. Employers may request advance written notice when the use of sick time is foreseeable. After three days of absence, employers may also request documentation from the employee confirming the use of sick time. Employers may also require a reasonable minimum increment of the sick time to be used, provided that it does not exceed four hours. Accrued sick time is carried over to the following calendar year; however, employees may not use more than five days (or 40 hours) of leave per calendar year. With certain exceptions, sick time is paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay. The law also requires that a notice be posted in English and any languages spoken by at least five percent of the workforce.

For businesses that already provide at least five days of medical leave per year, including through a valid collective bargaining agreement, no change in policy is required. However, for all other New York City employers, the law will require that they alter their attendance policies prior to April 2014. Although there is no private right of action under the new law, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs may seek lost wages, as well as civil penalties. Employers are therefore advised to begin their compliance efforts sooner rather than later.

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