The New York City Council has passed a bill that will require employers to grant requests for temporary work schedule changes when needed for certain medical and family care purposes.  UPDATE: The bill became law on January 19, 2018 after Mayor Bill de Blasio neither signed nor vetoed it.  It takes effect on July 18, 2018.

The bill will require employers to grant a temporary schedule change if requested by an employee:

  • to provide care to a minor child or to a family or household member with a disability who requires medical care or assistance with the needs of daily living;
  • to attend proceedings to secure subsistence benefits for the employee or a family member, or
  • for other reasons covered under the New York City Earned Sick and Safe Time Act (“ESSTA”).

The bill defines a temporary schedule change as “a limited alteration in the hours or times that or locations where an employee is expected to work, including, but not limited to, using paid time off, working remotely, swapping or shifting work hours and using short-term unpaid leave.”  Employers will be required to grant such requests at a minimum either twice per calendar year for up to one business day per request, or once per calendar year for two business days for a single request.  Employers will only be permitted to deny an employee’s request if the employee has already exhausted the allotted requests in the calendar year.

Employees will not be required to exhaust any paid leave available to them under ESSTA before making a request for a temporary schedule change.  Further, any unpaid leave granted as part of a schedule change accommodation will not be counted toward an employee’s ESSTA leave bank.  Employees will be protected from retaliation for making a schedule change request or otherwise seeking to enforce their rights under the bill.

An employee making a temporary schedule change request will be required to notify the employer as soon as the employee becomes aware of the need for the change.  An initial request will not need be in writing, but an employer may require that a more formalized written request subsequently be submitted.  Employers will be required to “immediately” provide an informal response to an initial request for a schedule change, and then provide a formal response in writing no later than 14 days after the employee submits his or her written request setting forth: (i) whether the employer agrees to the temporary change as requested by the employee, whether with or without pay; (ii) if the employer is denying the request, an explanation for the denial; and (iii) how many more requests for temporary schedule changes the employee has left in the calendar year after taking into account the employer’s decision on the current request.

The bill exempts certain employees from coverage, including employees who:

  • work less than 80 hours per calendar year in NYC (as per ESSTA, such employees are also not eligible to accrued paid sick leave under ESSTA);
  • have worked for the employer for fewer than 120 days (as per ESSTA, such employees may also be precluded from using paid sick leave);
  • are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that waives the provisions of bill and addresses temporary changes to work schedules; and/or
  • perform certain manual or non-office work for motion picture, television, or live entertainment employers.

We will continue to track this new law and report on further developments.