New York City Mayor de Blasio has signed an amendment to the New York City Earned Sick Time Act (the “Act”) expanding the Act’s coverage in two significant respects.

First, effective May 5, 2018, the Act will be known as the “NYC Earned Sick and Safe Time Act.” As of that date, employees will be permitted to take time off under the Act for “safe time.” Second, as of that date, the list of covered family members for whose care an employee may use sick and/or safe time will be expanded to include (i) any individual related by blood to the employee; and (ii) any individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

The Act (which has been in effect since April 1, 2014) entitles both full-time and part-time employees in New York City to take up to 40 hours of sick leave annually, which is either paid or unpaid, depending on the size of the employer. Sick time under the Act can be used for a number of reasons, including for the employee’s own illness, injury or visits to a doctor, and for the employee to care for family members who are ill, injured or need to see a doctor. More information about the Act can be found here.

Under the amended Act, safe time leave may be taken when an employee or an employee’s family member “has been the victim of a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking” in order to:

(a) 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;
(b) 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;
(c) 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;
(d) file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement;
(e) meet with a district attorney’s office;
(f) enroll children in a new school; or
(g) 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.

Employers may require reasonable notice (of not more than seven days) of the need for safe time leave if the need is foreseeable. Employers may also require reasonable documentation to support absences that exceed three consecutive work days, provided that such documentation must be treated as confidential by the employer, and further provided that employees cannot be required to disclose specific details pertaining to the family offense, sex offense, stalking or human trafficking. Reasonable documentation is defined to include “documentation 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 in addressing family offense matters, sex offenses, stalking, or human trafficking and their effects; a police or court record; or a notarized letter from the employee explaining the need for such time.”

Next Steps for Employers

Employers are required to provide notice to employees of their expanded “safe time” rights within 30 days after the amendment takes effect (i.e., by June 4, 2018), and must also update their existing policies to comport with the Act, as amended.