NYC Poised to Require Sick Leave for Domestic Violence Victims

New York City employment law currently requires all local businesses to offer sick leave to their employees. For employers with at least five workers, such leave must be paid at the employee's hourly rate (but no less than the minimum wage). An eligible employee earns one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, starting with the first day of employment, although no leave may be taken by a new employee during the first 120 days on the job.

The Earned Safe and Sick Time Act

Sick leave is currently available when an employee has a mental or physical illness, needs to care for an ill family member, the employer is forced to close due to a public health emergency, or the employee needs to care for a child whose daycare has been closed due to such an emergency. In addition to these reasons, the New York City Council recently adopted an amendment to the sick leave law that would make it easier for victims of domestic violence to take time off to deal with the consequences of their attack.

The bill, approved by the Council on October 17, renames the city's sick leave law as the “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.” The revised law would allow a covered employee to use their earned leave time to attend to a number of matters related to a “family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking” involving either themselves or a family member. For example, an employer must allow an employee to use safe leave in order to:

  • File a criminal complaint with the police;
  • Meet with a civil attorney or the district attorney to “prepare for or participate” in a formal court proceeding related to a family offense;
  • Obtain services from a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter;
  • Relocate themselves or their family to a safe location, including enrolling any children in a new school; or
  • Take any other action “necessary to maintain, improve, or restore the physical, psychological or economic health or safety” of the employee and his or her family.

If the employee needs to use more than three consecutive days for safe time, the employer may demand “reasonable documentation,” either from the employee or a designated agent, including an attorney, health care provider, clergyman, or even a member of a “victim service organization.” The notification need not “specify the details” of the underlying crime, nor can the employer require such information. Furthermore, the employer cannot disclose any details regarding an employee or family member's “status as a victim” as a condition of granting leave.

Has Your Employer Illegally Denied Leave or Benefits?

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio is expected to sign the new sick and safe leave act into law. This will be good news for many New Yorkers who may be reluctant to even report domestic abuse or sex crimes for fear of losing their job if they take time off from work. If you have any issues with your employer regarding your own leave, pay, or other benefits, and need advice from an experienced New York employment attorney, call the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today at (800) 496-3076.