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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act

Top 9 Frequently Asked Questions on New York City’s Paid Sick Time Law

The New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act went into effect on April 1, 2014. Through our free legal helpline, A Better Balance has received and answered many questions regarding the NYC Earned Safe and Sick Time Act. Read on for answers to some frequently asked questions, and be sure to check out our main webpage on the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act for more information!


1) What does the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act do?

The New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act gives workers up to 40 hours of sick time in a year to recover from physical/mental illness or injury, seek medical treatment, or care for a sick family member.

As of May 5, 2018, your sick time under the law can also be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain non-medical needs that may arise if you or a family member are victims of domestic violence, a sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking. For example, you may be able to use safe time to meet with a lawyer or social worker or to relocate your family for safety.

Workers cannot be fired or punished for taking this time. If your workplace has 5 or more workers, your employer must pay you for the time off.

2) Am I covered?

The law covers most people working in New York City. If you work within the boundaries of New York City (in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx or Staten Island) for more than 80 hours in a year, you are probably covered, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or temporary worker.

However, the law does not cover:

  • Federal, state, and municipal workers
  • Students in federal work-study programs and recipients of certain fellowships/scholarships
  • Independent contractors (Note that employers sometimes incorrectly label workers as independent contractors; check with an attorney if you have questions)
  • Participants in a Work Experience Program (WEP)
  • Certain occupational, speech, and physical therapists

3) Which of my family members are covered by the law?

Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling. As of May 5, 2018, you can also take sick time to care for any blood relative (such as an aunt, cousin, etc.) or any other individual whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).

4) How much paid sick time am I entitled to earn and use per year?

If you work for a business with 5 or more employees, you may earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time. You will earn 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.

If you work for a business with fewer than 5 employees, you may earn up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time. (If you work for a chain business or franchise, you may still be entitled to paid sick time depending on how the business is owned or operated.)

Domestic workers receive 2 days of paid sick time after one year of employment in addition to the paid “days of rest” they get under state law.

All employees are protected against being fired or punished for using or requesting their sick time (including threats, discipline, demotion, reduction in hours, termination, etc.).

5) When can I start using my sick time?

You can start using sick time 120 days after you begin employment. However, you begin earning sick time as soon as you begin employment.

6) What if I already have paid leave or paid time off?

If you already get any paid leave (vacation, paid time off, personal days, etc.) that you can use as sick time and it’s at least the same amount you would earn under this law, and you can use it for the same purposes and under the same circumstances, the law does not give you any additional paid time off.

7) What kind of notice and proof do I have to give to my employer under this law?

If you know you will need sick time (for example, for a doctor’s appointment), your employer can require you to tell him/her up to 7 days before. Otherwise, you can be required to tell your employer as soon as possible.

Either way, you cannot be required to find a replacement worker for your time off.

If you use sick time for more than 3 days in a row, your employer can require a note from a health care provider. The note does not need to describe the health issue—only your need for the amount of sick time taken.

 8) What if I have a personal emergency?

As of July 18, 2018, most workers in New York City have the right under a separate law to two additional unpaid, job-protected days off per year. These days can be used to care for a child under 18; care for a family member or someone who lives with you who has a disability and relies on you for care; attend a legal proceeding or hearing for certain benefits; or for any “sick time” or “safe time” purpose protected under the NYC Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.

9) What if my employer does not provide me with sick time or fires/punishes me for taking—or trying to take—sick time? Where can I get more information about the law and my rights?

You have two years after a violation of the law to enforce your rights under the NYC Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.

Call A Better Balance’s free and confidential legal hotline at 1-833-NEED-ABB. We provide information and advice to workers about sick leave, family leave, discrimination, and other workplace issues related to pregnancy and family care.

To see our flyer on New York City’s paid sick time law, click here.

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