On April 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed the 2021 New York State budget, which included paid sick leave for employees in New York State.  Yes – paid sick leave that can be taken for normal, non-pandemic illnesses, among other reasons.

While society remains upended by COVID-19, Governor Cuomo stated, “we have to be able to walk and chew gum. We have to move forward at the same time and that’s why passing the budget and these pieces of legislation were important.”  State-wide sick leave – which surely would have received more attention but for immediate COVID-19 related concerns – requires New York employers to review their paid time off and sick leave policies.

Required benefits are as follows:

  • Employers with four or fewer employees will have to provide 40 hours of leave; if the employer’s net income is under $1 million the leave is unpaid; if it is over $1 million, the leave is paid.
  • Employers with between five and ninety-nine employees must provide forty hours of paid sick leave.
  • Employer with one hundred or more employees must provide fifty-six hours of paid sick leave.

Sick time will begin to accrue on September 30, 2020 and can be used beginning January 1, 2021.  Sick time must be accrued at the rate of at least one hour per 30 hours worked.  Sick leave may be carried over year to year, but employers may limit its use at 40 or 56 hours, as applicable.  Employers need not compensate employees for accrued, unused sick days upon termination.

Sick leave can be used for a variety of reasons beyond one’s own sickness, including caring for a family member, remedying or seeking assistance for domestic violence, family or sexual offenses, stalking, human trafficking, or “taking any other action necessary to ensure the health or safety of the employee or the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.”

New York City’s paid sick leave law – which was passed in 2018 – provides 40 hours of paid sick leave.  With the passage of the state paid sick law provisions, employers of over 100 employees may have to adjust paid sick leave upwards, if current policies are limited to 40 hours.

Employers need not revise their policies that currently satisfy the statute’s accrual, carryover, and use requirements.

The Department of Labor is authorized to issue regulations and guidance effecting the paid sick leave law. We will keep you updated when regulations and guidance are released and are always available to discuss your questions concerning the implementation of New York’s sick leave law.