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

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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What Employees Should Know About Employer Medical Information Requests

Employees get asked questions from their employers on a day-to-day basis. Some questions are innocent, while other questions may seem a little more personal. Either way, employees are not usually hesitant to answer employer questions, as they assume that any question asked must be necessary for the employer to know. While in many cases this may be true, when it comes to prying into an employee’s medical information, there are laws that protect employees from having to disclose. Continue reading “What Employees Should Know About Employer Medical Information Requests”

Sexual Harassment Doesn’t Only Happen Between Males And Females

ew York City has statutes protecting employees from sexual harassment and other offensive conduct in the workplace. Sexual harassment includes sexual remarks, images, jokes, or any other conduct by a co-worker or superior that creates a hostile or intolerable work environment. Most sexual harassment claims are made between female employees regarding the actions of male coworkers or supervisors. However, sexual harassment claims are not limited to acts committed by men against women. In a recent case, according to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, a female chief executive officer (CEO) made inappropriate sexual remarks towards female employees. Continue reading “Sexual Harassment Doesn’t Only Happen Between Males And Females”

New York City Safe Time Act

On November 6, 2017, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA) which amends Chapter 8 of Title 20 to the New York City Administrative Code. On May 5, 2018, the new law will take effect that affords leave time to victims and to the family members of victims of family offenses, sexual offenses, stalking, and human trafficking. Continue reading “New York City Safe Time Act”

Seasonal Hires Receive Many of the Same Labor Law Protections

Seasonal employees are typically hired to work on a part-time basis for retailers that need extra help around the holiday season. These seasonal positions are a perfect way to provide employees the opportunity to earn extra income to pay for gifts, meals, and even bills. In addition, already employed workers may have the opportunity to receive a supplemental income, which may help to offset the extra money spent during the holiday seasons. Continue reading “Seasonal Hires Receive Many of the Same Labor Law Protections”

The “Snowflake Test”: Is It Legal?

snowflakeWhile it is not uncommon for employers to give assessment tests to potential job candidates, one U.S. company has caught the eye of the media for its unusual vetting tool. Kyle Reyes, Chief Executive Officer of The Silent Partner Marketing, a public relations firm located in Hilliard Mills, Connecticut, created the controversial “snowflake test” as a means of weeding out candidates who don’t fit the company’s culture – specifically, “overly sensitive, liberal candidates that are too easily offended.” However, despite the significant publicity and, in some cases, praise, others have fiercely criticized the assessment and called into question the ethics and legality of it.

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Whistleblower Lawsuit Filed Against Mead Johnson Nutrition

Employers can face serious legal consequences when they retaliate against whistleblowers. A whistleblower is an employee who voices a complaint about a company’s misconduct, such as filing complaints about safety and health code violations, shareholder fraud, mismanagement of fiances or other illegal activity. Additionally, employees who make initial complaints, those that follow up on those concerns or give information to investigators are also considered whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are protected against retaliation by their employers and companies under both federal and state laws.

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Possible Settlement in Unpaid Overtime Case

In November 2014, employees of Alice’s Tea Cup LLC, a Manhattan café chain alleged that during their employment, they were not paid overtime for days when they worked more than 10 hours. Alice’s Tea Cup has three locations in New York City.

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New Proposal from DOJ Seeks to Reduce Employment Discrimination against Immigrants

Law360 recently reported that The Department of Justice is proposing a new rule that would implement changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act, including how certain terms would be defined in regards to the so-called “unfair, immigration-related employment practices” based on the employee’s immigration status or nation of origin. Continue reading “New Proposal from DOJ Seeks to Reduce Employment Discrimination against Immigrants”