On November 6, 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law an amendment to the City’s administrative code which would afford leave time to victims of family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking, and human trafficking, and their family members. The amendment will take effect 180 days after the Mayor’s signing (May 5, 2018), and New York City will join a host of other states and municipalities that already provide similar leave time for domestic violence victims and their families.
Chapter 8 of Title 20 to the NYC Administrative Code, previously titled the “Earned Sick Time Act,” will now be referred to as the “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.” Under the amendment, employers with five or more employees are required to provide a minimum of one hour of safe/sick time for every thirty (30) hours worked by an employee. Employers are not required to provide more than forty (40) hours of safe/sick time in a calendar year.
A covered employee who is a victim or who has a family member who has been the victim of a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking is entitled to use safe time for any of the following reasons:
- To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other shelter or services program for relief from a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking;
- To participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee’s family members from future family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking, or human trafficking;
- To meet with a civil attorney or other social service provider to obtain information and advice on, and prepare for or participate in any criminal or civil proceeding, including but not limited to, matters related to a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, human trafficking, custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing, discrimination in employment, housing, or consumer credit;
- To file a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement;
- To meet with a district attorney’s office;
- To enroll children in a new school; or
- To take other actions necessary to maintain, improve, or restore the physical, psychological, or economic health or safety of the employee or the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.
Employers may request documentation for an absence of more than three (3) consecutive work days for safe time. Documentation signed by an employee or volunteer of a victim services agency, an attorney, a member of the clergy, or a medical or other professional service provider constitutes reasonable documentation under the Act. The production of a police or court record, or even a notarized letter from the employee explaining his/her need to take safe leave may also be considered reasonable documentation. Employers are prohibited from requiring that the documentation specify the details of the family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.
Employers are required to provide notice to employees of their right to safe leave within thirty (30) days of the amendment’s effective date.
In January 2017, the New York State Senate introduced a bill which would amend the State Labor Law to similarly provide unpaid leaves of absence for victims of domestic or sexual violence. To date, this bill — Senate Bill S2856 — remains before the Senate Labor Committee and has not yet been calendared for presentation before the State Senate. Versions of this bill have been introduced by the State Senate in prior years without much success. However, in light of New York City’s recent addition of safe time, the presentation and passage of this bill may be more likely than in previous years.