New York City Council Amends Earned Sick Time Act to Permit Employees to Use Paid Time Off for “Safe Time”

On October 17, 2017, the New York City Council passed a bill amending the New York City Earned Sick Time Act (which took effect on April 1, 2014)  to require paid time off for victims of family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking and human trafficking, and their family members.  The amendment would take effect 180 days after Mayor Bill de Blasio signs it into law, which he is expected to do.

Reasons for Using Safe Time

Once passed, the law, which would be renamed the “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act,” would require employers to allow employees to use safe time for the following reasons:

–           to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other shelter or services program for relief from a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking;

–           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 from future family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking, or human trafficking;

–           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 the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.

Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure

The amendment prohibits employers from requiring an employee to disclose the details of the employee’s or his/her family member’s status as a victim of family offenses, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking as a condition to allowing safe time to be used.  To the extent that the employer is aware of such information, it cannot be disclosed, except by the employee’s written permission or as required by law.  An employer can consider such information, however, in connection with a request for reasonable accommodation of a disability under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Notice of Need for Safe Time

An employer may require reasonable notice of an employee’s need to use safe time, and where the need is foreseeable, can require that an employee provide reasonable advance notice of no more than seven days.

Employee Documentation

For safe time absences of three consecutive work days or more, an employer can require “reasonable documentation” confirming that the absences were attributed to reasons under the law.  Acceptable documentation would include an explanation of the need for leave, without specifying details, signed by an employee, agent, or volunteer of a victim services organization, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional service provider from whom the employee or that employee’s family member has sought assistance; a police or court record; or a notarized letter from the employee.

What Next?

Currently, violations of the Earned Sick Time Act are handled by the Department of Consumer Affairs.  However, it is likely that there will be additional amendments to the law, including permitting aggrieved employees to assert their rights through a lawsuit, although the current amendment does not provide for a private civil action. We will continue to keep you informed of further developments, including when the safe time bill is signed by Mayor de Blasio.

In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding this or any other legislative development.

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