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Queens Chronicle

City gets word out on paid sick leave

Department of Consumer Affairs conducting broad outreach program

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Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:31 am, Thu May 29, 2014.

An informational meeting in Cambria Heights on the city’s new paid sick leave law did not attract the audience that the Department of Consumer Affairs likely would have wanted.

But Maria Tepper of the DCA said the department is committed to continuing its outreach efforts to educate workers and business owners of their rights under the controversial new law, which went into effect on April 1.

Under the law, part-time workers who work at least 80 hours per year can begin to accrue paid sick leave to deal with illness involving themselves, or to care for a child, spouse or partner, parent, sibling, grandparent or grandchild and not have to worry about replacing lost income or being replaced at work.

“Your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you, said Tepper, general counsel and deputy commissioner of Legal Affairs for the DCA.

New York City is the seventh municipality in the country to adopt such a law, and Tepper said officials have been able to learn from what others have done right and what they had to adjust.

The law applies to all businesses with five or more employees. Those with fewer than five must offer unpaid sick leave.

Speaking with a small group that came to Mount Moriah AME Church, Tepper said qualifying workers accrue one hour for every 30 hours worked. An employer must provide up to 40 hours per year.

She said workers who feel they are being denied proper leave or feel they have been subject to retaliation now have an avenue to file a complaint with the DCA, which will enforce the new regulations.

Employers subject to a formal complaint will be notified by the DCA and must reply within 30 days.

The DCA will work to resolve the complaint, and, if necessary help an employer come into compliance.

While the city had a grace period for fines until October, a first offense can result in a fine of up to $500, a penalty that can increase for repeat offenders within given time periods.

“Our hope is to get the word out, and then work with employers so that it doesn’t reach the level of enforcement,” Tepper said.

Tepper did say employers do have the right to require up to seven days notice for requested sick leave when the need is reasonably foreseeable.

“Such as a scheduled doctor’s appointment,” she said.

Should an employee use three days in a row, an employer is allowed to request documentation from a licensed healthcare provider. An employer is prohibited from requiring a specific medical reason.

An employee also may carry over any unused sick leave into the following year, but is only entitled to the maximum of 40 hours in that next year.

Tepper said the law also protects employers from employees who might want to use sick time in the middle of the summer to go to City Field or the beach.

“An employee who abuses sick time can be subject to the same discipline as any other employee who violates workplace rules,” she said.

Complaint forms are available online at nyc.gov.PaidSickLeave, or by calling 311.

The law does not apply to city agencies or to employees of the City Council, though Tepper said just about all those employees already have equal or better conditions under their union contracts.

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