New York State’s Paid Family Leave Program Begins

What constitutes paid family leave and whether employers should be required to offer it has been a widely debated topic for decades. Recently, New York State has taken a step forward in this issue by granting employees new rights regarding family leave. As of the first day of the new year, the laws outlining employees’ eligibility for paid family leave have been improved in New York State to make it one of the most generous plans in the nation. The program for New York State will be phased in over the course of the next four years, beginning with 8 weeks of paid leave and eventually growing to 12 weeks of paid leave by 2021.

Currently under federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) already provided employees with 12 weeks of protected leave, which does not allow an employer to take away the employee’s job by firing or demoting him or her for taking the leave. However, the FMLA does not require that this leave be paid which tends to result in many people being unable to afford to take advantage of it. Additionally, the FMLA only applies to employers who have more than 50 employees and accounts for just more than half of the workforce.

New York State’s law fills in the gap by requiring that most private employers provide employees with this paid family leave. Employees can use this job-protected, paid leave for three reasons:

  • After having given birth and/or to bond with a newly born, adopted, or fostered child
  • To care for a severely ill, close relative
  • To assist loved ones of active military members that are deployed abroad

Bonding time with a new child begins after birth, adoption, or foster placement and may be taken immediately after, or in full-day increments during the first 12 months following the birth, adoption or placement. Those who take the leave to care for an ill relative may do so for a spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or grandchild. Caring for a family member with a serious illness includes those who require inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility or who are in need of continuing treatment or supervision by a health care provider.

To fulfill this “phase-in” plan the state established, the average amount paid per week of family leave will increase by a set amount each year until 2021. The amounts are capped, however, at a percentage of the state average weekly wage each year. This means that for an employee who has a 50% average weekly wage of more than 50% of the state average weekly wage, the employee will be paid 50% of the state average weekly wage rather than 50% of his or her own weekly income. The four-year schedule is as follows:

  • In 2018, employees will be eligible to be paid 50% of their average weekly wage or up to 50% of the state average weekly wage for 8 weeks
  • In 2019, employees will be eligible to be paid 55% of their average weekly wage or up to 55% of the state average weekly wage for 10 weeks
  • In 2020, employees will be eligible to be paid 60% of their average weekly wage or up to 60% of the state average weekly wage, also for 10 weeks
  • By 2021, employees will be eligible to be paid 67% of their average weekly wage or up to 67% of the state average weekly wage for 12 weeks

Asserting your rights in the workplace can be an intimidating thing to do, but the law protects those taking paid family leave. If you have reason to believe you have been discriminated against by your employer for taking advantage of New York’s new paid family leave plan, it is important to contact an experienced attorney. Steven Mitchell Sack is an experienced employment lawyer who has spent his career of more than 37 years working to ensure the rights of people in the workplace. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (917) 371-8000 or email

5 Workplace Laws Employees Need to Understand

Employment at Will

An at-will employee generally has no right to their job. Many employees believe that there are laws that protect them from being fired without reason or notice, but those employees are wrong. Being an at-will employee means that, absent a contractual relationship, your boss does not have to provide you the benefits of such protections as notice or reason for termination. While this may be discouraging news, this also allows you the benefit of quitting your job with no notice or no reason as well.

Pay Rate and Hours

The only reason that most people work is to get paid, but in order to have a just wage, you must understand the laws that govern your pay rate and hours. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides the structure of the right for you to earn a fair pay rate for the hours that you put in work. The FLSA is a federal law, so all employees are covered. The law has established:

  • 40-hour work weeks
  • Overtime pay
  • Minimum wage
  • Child labor laws
  • Equal pay for equal work regardless of sex or gender, and
  • Paid time off

Each state’s payment laws may differ within the limitations set by the FLSA, but the FLSA sets minimum standards.

Employment Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for upholding federal laws that make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees. In order for the EEOC protections to apply, you must have been discriminated against because of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. The EEOC will also protect employees, who have complained or filed a claim for discrimination, from the termination of their employment.

Family and Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is another federal program that assists employees with balancing their work and personal lives without jeopardizing their employment position. The FMLA provides employees with job protection while participating in a 12-week unpaid leave from work. FMLA will cover situations such as serious medical conditions, caring for an immediate family member, allowing time to spend with newborn or newly adopted children, or military obligations.  Additionally, there are other factors to consider when taking this time off, including:

  • Is your employer covered? (businesses with 50 or more employees must comply)
  • Are you covered as an employee?
  • Is your reason for the leave protected?
  • Did you meet proper notice requirements?

Privacy Rights

While there is a general right for an employer to monitor their employees, employers may only monitor those actions that take place on or in employer property. There is a clear line between personal property and business property, and employers must comply. Company desks, files, lockers, and cars are considered employer property and, therefore, are subject to searches. Digital records, on the other hand, often blur this clear line. That is why it is important to understand that an employer may also monitor any action that is transmitted via a work computer, email account, phone or mobile device. If you are participating in private conduct at work, make sure this conduct is through your personal property. For example, an employer has no right to monitor the texts, calls, or emails sent through your personal mobile device, but will have the right to monitor those actions taken on a company’s mobile device.

If you have any concerns regarding employment law issues, contact the New York employment law attorney Steven Mitchell Sack to protect your rights. Call Steven Mitchell Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer,” at (917) 371-8000 or email him at

Age Discrimination Is Illegal

Recently, a federal lawsuit was filed against Amazon and T-Mobile, among others, for discriminating against older employees in violation of the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA). According to the complaint, these companies posted recruitment advertisements on Facebook, a social media platform, which targeted only specific age groups.
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Amendment to NYC Human Rights Law For Reasonable Accommodation Requests

A recent amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law now requires employers to handle employee requests for reasonable accommodations in a specific manner. The New York City Council amended the law, which takes effect on October 15, 2018, in response to employers’ failure to acknowledge and appropriately handle requests for reasonable accommodations by their employees. The amendment requires employers to participate in a cooperative discussion with an employee who needs accommodations for:
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FMLA Does Not Mean Employees are Ineligible for Termination

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives qualifying employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. It allows employees to take a reasonable amount of unpaid leave time for medical or family reasons such as:

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Paid Sick Leave Law

Under New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law (PSLL), which is enforced by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), any employer with five or more employees must provide paid sick leave, while those with four or less employees are required to only provide sick leave.  The law covers all employees who work more than eighty hours per calendar year and either live or work in New York City. Attending client meetings in New York City constitutes “working in New York City.” This law covers workers that are:
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Pregnancy Discrimination

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was created to protect women from workplace discrimination due to her pregnancy. Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace may involve any of the following:
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New Year New Minimum Wage Requirements

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill which structures the gradual increase of the minimum wage in New York to $15.00. This structure provides a different schedule in three different regions of New York including, 1. New York City; 2. Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties; and 3. outside Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties. Not only does each region have a different schedule, but each type of business within New York City has different schedules as well.
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Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors

Across the country, more employers are hiring individuals on an as-needed basis.  This often leads to denying workers benefits such as health insurance, overtime, and sick pay, among others. Hiring employees on an as-needed basis may be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Department of Labor has set forth a legal test to determine whether or not a worker is considered an employee or a contractor.
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Sexual Harassment Claims Continue to Accumulate Against the World’s Most Powerful

Recently, there have been multiple accusations of sexual misconduct against some of the world’s most powerful and famous people, including Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., and Matt Lauer. These accusations demonstrate instances of sexual misconduct in the workplace where a person of authority uses his or her position to make unwanted sexual advances or sexual requests in exchange for something. Any form of direct or indirect unwelcomed or inappropriate conduct results in a hostile work environment. Some examples of the most common types of sexual misconduct that result in a hostile work environment include:
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