woman on sick leave

In Focus: New York State’s New Paid Leave Law

New York State’s new paid sick leave law became effective on September 30, 2020. While two jurisdictions in the state, New York City and Westchester County, have already mandated paid sick leave, all employees in New York are entitled to this leave. The best way for employers and employees to understand their obligations and rights, respectively, under the new paid sick leave law is to consult with an experienced employment law attorney. 

New Rules on Paid Sick Leave in New York

New York is now one of only 13 states (and Washington D.C. ) to mandate paid sick leave. The new law requires businesses with 100 or more employees to allow workers to accrue leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours per year. Employers with fewer than 100 workers must provide 40 hours of sick leave.

Other key points of the new paid sick leave law include:

  • Employers with 5 or fewer workers and a net income greater than $1 million in the previous tax year must provide 40 hours of paid sick leave. Those with a net income of less than $1 million must provide 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. 
  • The new law does not require companies to set aside specific sick days. Instead, companies with general paid-time-off (PTO) policies can require workers to use accrued PTO when they are sick.
  • Unused sick leave can be carried over to the following calendar year.

It is worth noting that large businesses with employees in New York City and Westchester County must also adhere to the state’s new sick leave law. Employees in those jurisdictions accrued up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year and are now entitled to an additional 16 hours.

Moreover, existing paid sick leave laws in these jurisdictions only apply after workers have been with a company for several months and worked more than 80 hours. Under the new law, all employees in the state can begin accruing paid sick time on day one, but they cannot use it until Jan. 1, 2021. Finally, the new sick leave law is separate and part of the state’s COVID-19 leave policy which went into effect in March. At this juncture, it is unclear how these two laws will overlap.

Why This Matters

While it has become customary for many employers to provide workers with paid sick leave, it is now mandated under New York State law. Employers should consult with an attorney to ensure their sick-leave policies comply with the new law. At the same time, employees who are denied paid sick leave may have a viable wage and hour claim.