On May 28, 2019, the New York City Council held a public hearing regarding proposed amendments to New York City’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (“ESSTA”) which would require employers to provide eligible employees with “personal time.” The bill also would provide more protections for employees, including protections against retaliation and the addition of monetary penalties for employer violations.
The most sweeping change in the new ESSTA bill would be the requirement that all employers with five or more employees, and all employers of one or more domestic workers, would be required provide 1 hour of paid personal time for every 30 hours worked. Employers not meeting this threshold still have to provide unpaid “personal time.” The maximum accrual per year would be 80 hours, and employees would be permitted to carryover up to 80 hours to the next calendar year. However, employers could prohibit the use of more than 80 hours of personal time in a calendar year.
The expanded form of the ESSTA also states that “personal time” may be used for absence from work for any reason, and that employees are not required to provide documentation supporting their use of personal time. For employers that already provide paid vacation or other paid time off as a benefit, the proposed bill does not require those employers to provide an additional 80 hours above and beyond the benefit already provided. However, the paid time off provided must be allowed for the same purposes as “personal time” is allowed under the ESSTA.
Outside of “personal time,” the proposed bill adds other protections for employees as well. For instance, the ESSTA already prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the law. The proposed bill expands those protections to allow proof of retaliation by showing that an employee’s protected activity was a “motivating factor” for an adverse employment action as opposed to the more stringent “but for” cause standard. Additionally, a penalty of up to $500 “for each employee covered under an employer’s official or unofficial policy or practice of not providing or refusing to allow the use of earned time” may be imposed on any employers found to be in violation of the ESSTA.
If enacted, these proposed changes to the ESSTA would have a major impact on various employers in New York City. As such, employers who may be affected should monitor this bill closely in the upcoming months.