1. What does the Earned Sick Time Act do?
The New York City Earned Sick Time Act allows workers to take up to 40 hours of sick time in a year, either for themselves or to care for certain family members. Workers cannot be fired or punished for taking this time. If your workplace has 5 or more workers, your employer must pay you for the time off.
2. Does the new law apply to me?
The law covers most people working in New York City. If you work within the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx or Staten Island) for more than 80 hours in a year, you are covered, whether you are a full-time, part-time, temporary, or undocumented worker. However, the law does not cover:
- Federal, state, and municipal workers
- Students in federal work-study programs and recipients of certain fellowships/scholarships
- Independent contractors (Note that employers sometimes incorrectly label workers as independent contractors; check with an attorney if you have questions)
- Participants in a Work Experience Program (WEP)
- Certain occupational, speech, and physical therapists
3. What can I use my sick leave for?
You can use sick leave if you need to take time off from work due to your own mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, or to obtain medical diagnosis, treatment or preventive care. That includes doctor, dentist and eye doctor appointments.
You can also use your sick leave to take care of a family member who needs medical care. The family members covered under the law include a child, grandchild, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child or parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner or sibling.
In addition, sick leave can be used if your workplace or child’s school is closed due to a public health emergency declared by the City.
4. How much paid sick time am I entitled to earn and use under this law?
If you work for a business with 5 or more employees, you are entitled to earn and use up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year. You will earn 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.
If you work for a business with fewer than 5 employees, you are entitled to earn and use up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time a year.
If you are a domestic worker, you are entitled to 2 days of paid sick time after one year of employment, in addition to the paid days of rest provided by New York State Labor Law.
All employees are protected against being fired and other forms of retaliation for taking their earned sick time. Retaliation includes threats, discipline, demotion, reduction in hours, termination, etc.
5. How is the size of the business determined?
It is based on a head count of all paid employees, whether they are full-time, part-time or temporary. If the number of employees changes from week to week, employers should base their size on the average number of paid employees who worked per week during the prior calendar year.
If you work for a chain or franchise with fewer than 5 employees at your location, you may still be entitled to paid sick time. The combined total number of employees at all locations in New York City count if the business owner owns at least 30 percent of each location and the businesses are engaged in the same business. To find out about your particular workplace, ask the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs.
6. When can I start using my sick time?
Eligible workers start accruing paid sick days as of April 1, 2014 but must wait until July 30, 2014 or 120 days after their date of hire (whichever is later) to start using their time.
7. What if I already have paid leave or paid time off?
If you already get paid leave of any kind (vacation, paid time off, personal days, etc.) that you can use as sick time and it’s at least the same amount you would earn under the Earned Sick Time Act, the law does not give you any additional paid time off.
8. Can I be required to work additional hours instead of getting sick time?
No, your employer cannot require you to work additional hours instead of getting sick time. Your employer also cannot require you to find a replacement if you cannot work your shift. However, if both you and your employer agree, you can work additional hours within seven days instead of taking sick time.
9. What kind of notice and documentation do I have to give to my employer under this law?
If you know you will need sick time in advance (for example, if you have a doctor’s appointment), your employer can require you to tell him/her up to 7 days before you’re scheduled to be out.
If you don’t know in advance about your need for sick time, your employer can require you to tell him/her as soon as possible.
An employer can require a note from a health care provider if you have used sick time under the law for more than 3 days in a row. The note does not need to specify the nature of your personal or family health issue — only your need for the amount of sick time taken.
10. What should I do if my employer does not let me take my sick time?
What if my employer fires or punishes me for taking—or trying to take—sick time?
Where can I get more information about the law or whether I am covered?
Employers have to start complying with the law April 1, 2014. Employers must give written notice of employees’ rights under the new law to existing employees by May 1, 2014 and to new employees when they start their job.
An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for using or requesting to use sick leave.
An employer can discipline an employee who misuses sick leave, but only if the employee uses sick leave for a purpose other than those in the law.
The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is in charge of enforcing the law and processing complaints. DCA will conduct an investigation of the complaint and will work with the employer and the employee to resolve the complaint through mediation. If the complaint is not resolved, and the employer is found to be in violation of the law, a judge may order financial compensation to the worker and impose penalties on the employer. To learn about the details, contact DCA. You have two years after a violation of the law to enforce your rights. For more information, see: nyc.gov/PaidSickLeave.
Need more help?
Call A Better Balance’s Families @ Work Legal Clinic Hotline: (212) 430-5982 to speak with an attorney about your workplace rights concerning sick time.
Call Make the Road New York for more information about this law and your other rights as a worker at (718) 418-7690.