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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Event

Paid Sick Days: Know Your Rights

This page is designed to assist you in understanding your basic rights at work under the New York City Earned Sick Time Act. It does not cover all aspects of the law. It is always advisable to consult with a Make the Road attorney about your individual circumstances as soon as possible if you think your rights have been violated.

1. What does the Earned Sick Time Act do?

The New York City Earned Sick Time Act allows workers to take up to 40 hours of sick time in a year, either for themselves or to care for certain family members. 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 covered, whether you are a full-time, part-time, temporary, or undocumented 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?

The Earned Sick Time Act allows workers to use sick time to care for themselves or a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.

4. How much paid sick time am I entitled to earn and use under this law?

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

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

If you are a domestic worker, you are entitled to 2 days of paid sick time after one year of employment, in addition to the paid days of rest provided by New York State Labor Law.

All employees are protected against being fired and other forms of retaliation for taking their earned sick time. Retaliation includes threats, discipline, demotion, reduction in hours, termination, etc.

5. When can I start using my sick time?

You must wait until July 30, 2014 or 120 days after the date when you begin your job to start using your sick time.

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

If you already get paid leave of any kind (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 the Earned Sick Time Act, the law does not give you any additional paid time off.

7. Can I be required to work additional hours instead of getting sick time?

No, your employer cannot require you to work additional hours instead of getting sick time. Your employer also cannot require you to find a replacement if you cannot work your shift. However, if both you  and your employer agree, you can work additional hours within seven days instead of taking sick time.

8. What kind of notice and documentation do I have to give to my employer under this law?

If you know you will need sick time in advance (for example, if you have a doctor’s appointment), your employer can require you to tell him/her up to 7 days before you’re scheduled to be out.

If you don’t know in advance about your need for sick time, your employer can require you to tell him/her as soon as possible.

An employer can require a note from a health care provider if you have used sick time under the law for more than 3 days in a row. The note does not need to specify the nature of your personal or family health issue — only your need for the amount of sick time taken.

9. What should I do if my employer does not let me take my sick time? What if my employer fires or punishes me for taking or trying to take sick time? Where can I get more information about the law or whether I am covered?

You have two years after a violation of the law to enforce your rights.  Call or stop by one of Make the Road New York’s (MRNY) offices for more information.