In the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, the CDC has recommended that everyone take steps to protect themselves and their communities, including avoiding close contact with others. If you have to take time off work sick or your workplace is closed, what are your legal rights? If your child’s school is closed, can you stay home with your children?
Find out more about your earned paid sick time or earned paid sick leave rights in New York City below. Please note that you may also have an additional right to emergency paid leave for COVID-19 purposes under federal law, as described in more detail here.
1) What does the New York City Paid Sick Time law do?
It gives workers sick time that can be used to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; to seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; to care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; when the worker’s place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency; or to address certain non-medical needs that may arise if the worker or a family member are victims of domestic violence, a sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.
Additionally, the agency that enforces the law released guidance providing additional examples of ways that sick time can be used for coronavirus-related reasons, including taking time off work because the worker is under quarantine, is self-isolating for preventative purposes, or is caring for a family member under a mandatory or precautionary order of quarantine.
2) Am I covered?
If you work as an employee in New York City, you are probably covered, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or temporary worker. Workers are covered regardless of immigration status. However, the law does not cover federal, state, and municipal employees, independent contractors, and a few other narrow groups.
3) How much sick time can I earn?
You earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked.
Until January 1, 2021, you can use up to 40 hours of sick time per year. If your employer has 5 or more workers, that time must be paid. If your employer has fewer than 5 workers, your sick time may be unpaid—but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it. If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
Beginning on January 1, 2021, the amount of time you will be able to use will depend on the size of your employer. If your employer has 99 or fewer workers, you can use up to 40 hours per year. If your employer has 100 or more workers, you can use up to 56 hours per year. If your employer has fewer than 5 workers and a net income of less than $1 million in the last tax year, your sick time may be unpaid—but you can’t be fired or punished for taking it. If you are a domestic worker and do not work for an agency, your time must be paid, regardless of how many employees your employer has.
All covered employees are protected against being fired or punished for using or requesting their sick time (including threats, discipline, demotion, reduction in hours, termination, etc.).
4) What if my work or my child’s school or daycare is closed for a health emergency?
You can also use your sick time if your place of business is closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.
5) 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, sibling, or for any other 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.).
6) What if I already have paid leave or paid time off?
If you already get any paid leave (vacation, paid time off, etc.) that you can use as sick time and it’s at least the same amount you would earn under this law, the law does not give you any additional paid time off.
7) When can I begin using my sick time?
You start earning sick time immediately and beginning September 30, 2020, can use it as soon as it’s earned.
8) Do I need a doctor’s note?
Only after more than 3 consecutive days of absence (and the note does not have to specify your illness). However, beginning September 30, 2020, if your employer requests a doctor’s note, they must reimburse you for any fee your health care provider charges you to provide documentation.
All covered workers are protected against being fired or punished for using or requesting sick or safe time. If you have a problem—or want more information—call A Better Balance’s free legal clinic at 1-833-NEED-ABB.
The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) is in charge of enforcing this law.
Please note that this fact sheet does not represent an exhaustive overview of the paid sick time law described, and it does not constitute legal advice. It is possible that additional provisions not described in this fact sheet may apply to a worker’s specific circumstances or category of employment.