New York State Paid Sick Leave Law – FAQ’s

As expected, New York State’s Department of Labor has released a series of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding the New York State Paid Sick Leave Law.   Please refer to our prior article summarizing the key components of the law.

Here are some important takeaways from the FAQs

The Department of Labor provided definitions for Family Member, Parent and Child

Employers cannot require an employee to telecommute or work from home instead of taking sick leave.

Employees do not earn/accrue sick leave while using their paid sick leave.

An employee’s eligibility for “safe leave” is not dependent upon the police being contacted or a perpetrator being convicted. 

Employees can use sick time for a variety of reasons including doctor, dentist, eye-doctor and other routine, preventative care appointments. 

Bereavement leave is not covered.

Employees are immediately eligible to accrue sick time – there is no waiting period.  Likewise, there is no minimum time period before an employee can use their sick time.

Telecommuting employees are only covered for hours physically worked in New York State.

An employee’s immigration status has no effect on their eligibility for sick leave benefits.

Domestic workers and Non-profits are both covered under this law.

If an employee is paid at different rates for different tasks, they must be paid for sick time at the weighted average of those rates.  Weighted average is computed as follows:  the total regular pay divided by the total hours worked in the week.

Employers are not required to pay employees for unused sick time at the end of an employment relationship. 

Collective Bargaining Agreements entered into on or after September 30th, 2020 may provide for different leave benefits, so long as such benefits are “comparable benefits for the employees” to those required by law, and the agreement specifically acknowledges the provisions of Section 196-b of the Labor Law. 

Employers (Payroll & HR Departments) should keep in mind that both Westchester County and New York City have paid safe and sick leave laws that should be reviewed and analyzed in conjunction with this law.

Sick leave that is unused by an employee over the course of a year must be carried over to the next calendar year.  Employers may limit employee use to the number of hours that the employee is entitled to use within any calendar year. 

There is no specified amount of notice that an employee must give prior to using their accrued sick time.  There just needs to be an oral or written request prior to using the time off.

There are defined penalties if an employer does not provide this required sick time off to its employees.  Under New York State Labor Law, failure to provide employee benefits such as sick leave is equivalent to a failure to pay employee wages.  Employers may be subject to civil/administrative actions and/or criminal penalties, including but not limited to, an order assessing the full amount of the wage underpayment, 100% liquidated damages, and civil penalties in an amount up to double the total amount due.

Conclusion

These frequently asked questions covered many of the outstanding issues and provided much needed clarity regarding this new law.  As time progresses, there will be new topics that come up.  We will be on the lookout for further direction from the Department of Labor, and will watch for the issuance of regulations.

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