On May 5, 2018, amendments to NYC’s Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law took effect. The amendments broadened the scope of the law; now, employees have the right to use accrued leave for sick leave, the care of family members, and to seek assistance or take other safety measures if they or a family member are the victim of domestic violence. An employee does not have to have reported a crime to use the safe leave law.
Further, employees can also use it to seek services related to meeting an attorney or social service provider to discuss custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing, and discrimination in employment, housing, or consumer credit.
In addition, the amendments expanded the definition of who is considered a family member. Family now includes any individual who has a close association with the employee, children (biological, adopted, foster, or step), grandchildren, spouse, sibling, and any other individual related by blood to the employee.
The law is broadly applied: employers with five or more employees who work more than eighty hours in NYC a year are required to provide paid safe and sick leave. Employers with less than five employees are required to provide unpaid safe and sick leave.
Unfortunately, the law is not equally accessed across industries. In 2018, NYC’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards discovered through a directed enforcement initiative that there was widespread denial of paid sick leave and lack of notice of employee’s rights in the home health care industry. OLPS investigated over 40 home care agencies that collectively employ close to 30% of the home care aides in NYC. OLPS resolved 21 of these investigations and recovered $65,000 in employee relief and civil penalties. In addition, they issued settlements that require in part that the agencies develop and implement compliant safe and sick leave policies, train managers on compliance, and report on trainings provided to workers about their rights. Finally, the New York State Attorney General’s Office is investigating at least one agency for their violation of workers’ paid sick leave, wage and hour, and wage parity rights.
While there is still room for improvement, when viewed collectively, the May 2018 amendments and OLPS recent enforcement actions represent an important step towards ensuring access to safe and sick leave for all workers.
One Year of NYC’s Fair Workweek Law
On November 26, 2017, NYC’s Fair Workweek Law went into effect. The law protects workers against “just in time” scheduling, a practice where employer’s schedule and cancel shifts with minimal advance notice. The practice has become increasingly endemic in many industries, including the fast food and retail industries, and has had a devastating effect on workers. With such little notice about their schedules, it is difficult for workers to budget, hold necessary second jobs, and schedule child care.
In response, New York City passed a law that substantially limits employers in the city’s fast food and retail industries capacity to use just in time scheduling. The laws require fast food employers to provide good faith estimates of schedules to employees, provide written work schedules two weeks before a shift in schedule, and contact employees within twenty-four hours if the schedule changes. In addition, employers are required to give priority to existing employees when filling new shifts and provide bonuses and extra consent before scheduling workers for “clopening” shifts, or shifts were workers have less than eleven hours between working a closing shift and an opening shift.
The law requires that retail employees provide 72 hours advance notice of work schedules and cannot require workers to work “on-call” shifts, where they are available to work when the employer demands, regardless of whether they actually work or not. Finally, employers cannot add or cancel shifts with less than 72 hours’ notice.
NYC’s Fair Workweek law has been in effect for a little over one year. Between November 2018 and January 2019, the Office of Labor Policy and Standards—the agency in charge of implementing the law—received 134 complaints and completed more than 100 investigations. Through the course of their investigations, OLPS obtained a number of settlement agreements. These agreements have included a total of $252,135 in restitution for 1,270 workers and $69,140. In addition, they have gotten reinstatement and back pay for workers and filed complaints with the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings alleging violations such as unlawful termination, shift cancellation, retaliation, and other failures of compliance with the law.