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New York City Paid Sick Leave Law Has Been Expanded to Include Safe Time for Victims of Family Offense Matters, Sexual Offenses, Stalking and Human Trafficking, and Their Family Members

The “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act,” which is an amendment to New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law, was signed into law by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. It enlarges the list of covered reasons for which paid sick leave can be used when “when the employee or a family member has been the victim of a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.” The law takes effect on May 5, 2018.

The general definition of a “family member” has been amended to include an individual related by blood and an individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship:

• Child (of an employee, spouse or domestic partner);
• Spouse;
• Domestic partner;
• Parent (of an employee, spouse or domestic partner);
• Sibling;
• Grandchild; or
• Grandparent.

As per the amendment, an employee may utilize accrued sick and safe leave when the employee or a family member is the victim of a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking. Leave related to “safe time” can be taken for the following reasons:

• To receive services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other shelter or services program;

• To take part in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or family member;

• To meet with a civil attorney or other social service provider to obtain information and advice on, and prepare for or participate in, any criminal or civil proceeding, including but not limited to matters related to a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, human trafficking, custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing, discrimination in employment, housing or consumer credit;

• To file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement;

• To meet with a district attorney’s office;

• To enroll children in a new school; or

• To take other actions necessary to maintain, improve, or restore the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.

Reasonable notice of a foreseeable absence may be required—up to seven days before leave will begin—and notice must be provided as soon as practicable for unforeseeable absences. Employees can be required to provide written confirmation that leave was used for a covered purpose. For an absence of more than three consecutive work days, reasonable documentation that leave was used for a covered purpose can be required.

The amendment states that the following constitutes reasonable documentation:

• Documentation signed by an employee, agent, or volunteer of a victim services organization, an attorney, a clergy member, or a medical or other professional service provider from whom the employee or a family member sought assistance;

• A police or court record; or

• A notarized letter from the employee explaining the need for leave.

As with sick leave, employers cannot require that employees furnish documents specifying the details of covered reasons for the leave. Information concerning victim status obtained solely for taking leave must be treated as confidential and cannot be disclosed, unless the employee provides permission to do so, in writing.

Employers should update their paid sick leave policies to include paid safe leave. They should also begin providing a revised Notice of Employee Rights to new hires as of the amended law’s effective date (May 5, 2018) and should maintain accurate records of distribution. On or before June 4, 2018, employers should also distribute the revised Notice of Employee Rights to all of their employees working in New York City, who did not previously receive the revised Notice, and maintain records evidencing distribution.

The law permits the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Labor Standards Director to take necessary measures to implement the law, including creating rules.

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