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New York City’s New “Temporary Schedule Change” Law

A New York City law that takes effect on July 18, 2018 requires employers to accommodate certain requests by employees for temporary changes in their schedules. To be covered by this law, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 120 days, must work at least 80 hours per year, and must not be covered by a collective bargaining agreement containing different provisions for schedule changes.

A covered employee is entitled under the law to request two temporary schedule changes per calendar year, where the schedule change is needed (1) to provide care for a minor child or other care recipient; (2) to attend a legal proceeding or hearing for subsistence benefits for the employee, the employee’s family member, or the employee’s care recipient; or (3) to attend to any circumstance that would constitute a basis for leave under New York City’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (including illness of the employee or a family member, medical diagnosis or treatment, or seeking shelter from domestic abuse).

The employer is required to grant two temporary schedule changes per employee per calendar year, each for one business day. (If the employer allows the employee to use two business days for a single request, it is not required to grant a second request.) A temporary schedule change may include using paid time off, working remotely, swapping or shifting work hours, or using short-term unpaid leave. This new law does not affect employers’ other legal obligations under the sick leave and disability laws.

An employee seeking a temporary schedule change must submit a request to the employee (preferably in writing). The employer must respond in writing as soon as practicable, and in any event within 14 days. The response must indicate the specific schedule change that is being made, if the request is granted, or the basis for denial, if it is denied. The law provides for civil penalties against employers for violations and also prohibits employers from retaliating against employee for making a requests.

The law also contains a somewhat vague provision that authorizes employees to request schedule modifications beyond the two days per year for which the employer must grant such requests. The law does not require the employer to grant such requests, but does require a written response to them. Commentators have observed that the long-term implications of this provision are not clear.

The interplay of the various federal, New York State, and New York City laws governing employee time off, scheduling, and requests for accommodations is increasingly complex. Employers should consult with counsel to ensure that their policies comply with the latest requirements.