On April 1, New York City will join San Francisco and a handful of other places in requiring private employers to offer employees paid sick leave. For employers with employees working in New York City, this is a very good time to ensure that paid time-off policies comply with the law as it is scheduled to take effect. Employers with fewer than 20 employees may have to scramble. Amendments extending the mandate may be adopted within days, but the April 1 deadline seems fixed. San Francisco’s law has been in effect since 2007 and is the source of much less immediate drama. There is no time like the present, however, to double check compliance.
New York’s New Law
The situation is in rapid flux. The New York City Council actually passed a measure in mid-2013 requiring employers with 20 or more employees (eventually falling to 15) to provide paid sick leave as of April 1, 2014. The long delay in the effective date was designed to mitigate the blow to businesses, allow time to amend employee policies and phase-in coverage. Then there was a mayoral election.
In the last few weeks, the de Blasio administration has proposed changes that would speed up the process, extend coverage requirements to even smaller employers, move enforcement to the city’s Department of Health and eliminate an exemption based on economic performance — all as of the April 1 date. Employers were already complaining that no regulations had been issued.
Here’s who it affects. Today, the law will apply to companies with 20 or more workers in New York City. Note that the location of the workers, rather than the employer is the key. A Mississippi employer with a small satellite office will have to comply as well as the company principally located in the city. The proposed amendments would drop the threshold to 5 employees.
Manufacturing companies will be exempt from the paid sick time requirement, although employees would be protected from firing for taking unpaid sick time. Independent contractors will also not be covered, though employers must continue to be careful to classify workers correctly.
Here’s what NYC employers must do. The New York law will require employers with the requisite number of employees to provide five paid sick days a year to full-time and part-time employees who work more than 80 hours in New York City in a calendar year. These days are to be available if the employee or a family member falls ill.
Companies with fewer than the threshold number will be required to provide five unpaid sick days per year. The law thus protects even non-manufacturing employees of very small employers from being fired for using sick days.
San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Law
This situation is better defined and extensive regulations already in place.
Here’s who it affects. As with the New York City law, the critical issue is the location of the workers, not the employer. Employers must offer paid sick leave to all employees who perform work in San Francisco. This includes full-time, part-time and temporary employees, household employees and undocumented workers. It does not cover independent contractors, and the requirements of the law may be superseded by collective bargaining agreements that expressly waive its provisions. The goal is to allow employees to seek medical care, treatment and diagnosis for themselves, family members or other designated persons.
Here’s what affected employers must do. The tricky part is in the accrual provisions. For employees who were hired after February 5, 2007, paid sick leave begins to accrue 90 calendar days after the employee’s first day of work, and must accrue in hour increments at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. For employers with fewer than 10 employees during a week, the employee’s accrual is capped at 40 hours. This is an overall limit, not an annual one. For larger employers, the employee’s accrual is capped at 72 hours of paid sick leave.
Employers must also retain hourly records for four years and post a notice available from the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement describing the provisions of the law.
Paid sick leave is a hot-button issue. Similar provisions have become law in Seattle, Newark, Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon and the entire state of Connecticut, but have been rejected in other localities. In San Francisco, paid sick leave requirements have been in place long enough to become part of the normal fabric of employment law. All eyes are on the contentious roll-out in New York City.