New Permanent Sick Leave Law

On April 2, 2020, a new law was enacted that requires all employers to provide job-protected sick leave to New York employees. This new leave is separate from the recently enacted coronavirus paid leave requirements, which are more limited to the current health emergency in scope and duration.

As background, Gov. Cuomo recently signed the state budget for the 2021 fiscal year. The new sick leave mandates were incorporated within the budget. These measures are designed to protect both workers and consumers in the state by providing leave relating to physical or mental conditions or domestic violence affecting employees or their family members.

The amount of the leave and whether it is paid or unpaid depends upon the employer’s total number of global employees and net income. Employers with four or fewer employees and net income of less than $1 million must provide employees with up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave in each calendar year. Employers with 1) four or less employees and net income greater than $1 million in the prior tax year or 2) between five and 99 employees must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave. Employers with 100 or more employees are required to offer up to 56 hours of paid sick leave.

The sick leave accrues at a rate of one hour per every 30 hours worked beginning on September 30, 2020. Employees are entitled to begin using the leave as of January 1, 2021, upon oral or written request for one of the following qualifying reasons:

  1. A mental or physical illness, injury or health condition of such employee or such employee's family member, regardless of whether diagnosed or requiring medical care at the time
  2. The diagnosis, care or treatment; need for medical diagnosis of; or preventive care of a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition of such employee (or such employee's family member)
  3. An absence from work due to any of the following reasons when the employee or employee's family member has been the victim of domestic violence, a family offense, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking:
    1. To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center or other services program
    2. To participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee's family members
    3. To meet with an attorney or other social services provider to obtain information and advice on, and prepare for or participate in, any criminal or civil proceeding
    4. To file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement
    5. To meet with a district attorney's office
    6. To enroll children in a new school
    7. To take any other actions necessary to ensure the health or safety of the employee or the employee's family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee

The law defines a "family member" as an employee's child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild or grandparent; and the child or parent of an employee's spouse or domestic partner.

For paid sick leave, the employee is entitled to compensation at their regular rate of pay or the applicable minimum wage, whichever is greater. An employee's unused sick time is carried over to the following year; however, employers are permitted to place certain restrictions on the amount used each year. Unused leave does not have to be paid upon an employee’s termination.

An employer that already has a sick leave policy or time off policy that provides employees with equal or greater leave amounts and satisfies the accrual, carryover and use requirements would not need to provide additional sick leave. However, the law does not prohibit cities with populations of one million or more from enacting laws that exceed these requirements.

Employers should be aware of the new paid sick leave requirements and may need to update their existing leave polices and employee communications accordingly. Additionally, employers should be prepared to begin tracking the leave accrual requirements in the fall and documenting leave requests in 2021. As previously noted, these leave provisions were included (as Part J) of the state’s 2021 fiscal year budget.

Fiscal Year Budget »