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In this episode of The Proskauer Brief, senior counsel Harris Mufson and associate Laura Fant discuss recent amendments to the New York Earned Sick Time Act, which provides paid sick days for eligible employees working in New York City. We will discuss how the recent changes will now both expand the covered reasons for leave under the law, and also expand the family members that employees can take leave to care for. In addition, we will highlight several other cities and states outside of New York that have adopted or are in the process of adopting similar laws.

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Harris Mufson: Hello, welcome to the Proskauer Brief: Hot Topics and Labor and Employment Law. I’m Harris Mufson and on today’s episode Laura Fant and I are going to discuss recent amendments to the New York Earned Sick Time Act. Laura, can you describe for our listeners what the Earned Sick Time Act is?

Laura Fant: Absolutely. So the New York Earned Sick Time Act went into effect in 2014. And it provides for paid sick days for eligible employees working in New York City. They can use these sick days for a variety of reasons, including for their own medical condition, illness or injury, to care for a covered family member with an illness or injury, or for certain reasons when a workplace or their child’s school or daycare center is closed for medical reasons.

Harris Mufson: And so, how many sick days are employees entitled to under this law?

Laura Fant: Eligible employees are entitled to accrue sick time at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours per year. Employers can, of course, be more generous if they wish and offer more time, but the threshold under the law is one hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours per year.

Harris Mufson: Now there were some recent amendments to the Earned Sick Time Act, can you discuss those?

Laura Fant: Yes. Recently the New York City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law some amendments to the Earned Sick Time Act that will both expand the covered reasons for leave under the law, and also expand the family members that employees can take leave to care for. In terms of the covered reasons for leave, now, in addition to an employee’s own medical condition or caring for a family member with a health condition, employees will be eligible to take paid sick leave for situations where an employee or their family member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking.

This time can be taken for a variety of reasons relating to these issues including obtaining services from a domestic violence shelter or another social services program, meeting with an attorney or law enforcement, filing a complaint or a domestic violence incident report, moving the family, enrolling a child in a new school, any number of reasons relating to domestic violence or similar offenses.

In addition, the amendments will also expand the family members that employees can take leave to care for. Previously under the Sick Leave law employees could take leave to care for their spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild. Now the amendments will expand these categories even further to include two rather broad categories. The first being any other individual related by blood to the employee. And the second being any individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. So you’ll see that rather broadly expands who employees will now be able to take some time to care for.

Harris Mufson: And when do these amendments go into effect?

Laura Fant: The amendments take effect on May 5th, 2018, so that does give employers some time to get ready for the amendments, take a look at their policies and make necessary changes.

Harris Mufson: And previously you mentioned that other cities and states outside of New York have adopted similar laws or in the process of adopting similar laws, can you talk about that a little bit?

Laura Fant: Sure. This year was a big year for paid sick leave around the country. Several states, cities and counties, in fact, had paid sick leave laws go into effect, including Vermont, as of January 1st of this year. And Arizona as well as the City of Chicago and more broadly Cooke County, Illinois, all of which went into effect in July of this year. And we have a few additional ones going into effect at the start of New Year including Washington, going into effect on January 1st, 2018 and Rhode Island that will go into effect a little later in the year, in July 2018.

Harris Mufson: Thank you for joining us today on the Proskauer Brief. Stay tuned for more insights on the latest hot topics in labor employment law and be sure to follow us on iTunes.

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