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New York Expands Employees’ Paid Sick Leave Rights

New York State and New York City have adopted new legislation expanding the sick leave rights of employees within the state. The new legislation applies to employers with four or more employees. Employers with four or more employees and income of over $1 million per year, and any employer with 11 or more employees, must provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per employee each year. If the employer has 100 or more employees, it must provide at least 56 hours of paid sick leave each year.

The law also requires employers to allow employees to carry unused sick time over from year to year, up to a maximum of the same number of hours specified above. For example, an employer with between 11 and 99 employees must allow an employee to carry 40 hours of unused sick time over to the following year. However, such an employer is not required to allow the employee to actually use more than 40 hours of paid sick leave in any year, nor is there any requirement to pay out an employee’s unused sick time in cash upon termination – which some commentators have opined renders the carryover provision virtually meaningless. There is a possibility of a clarification by law or regulation in the future, but none has been announced to date.

In this era of COVID-19, New York State has also guaranteed workers job protection and financial compensation in the event they, or their minor dependent child, are subject to a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine or isolation issued by state or local authorities such as the Department of Health. Most employees will receive financial compensation by using a combination of benefits, which may include employer-provided paid sick leave, paid family leave, and disability benefits. Paid family leave time may also be used to care for a family member who has contracted COVID-19. Paid time off, however, will not be available to an employee who is able to continue working remotely. Employees are also entitled to guaranteed job protection for the duration of their illness or any quarantine period.

The interplay of the various federal, state, and local laws governing paid and unpaid time off becomes increasingly complicated with every new enactment. Employers with questions about employees’ rights and obligations should consult with counsel.