On April 1, the New York State Legislature signed into law the strongest and most comprehensive paid family leave policy. When fully phased in, employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with newborns, care for a family member with a serious medical condition or handle responsibilities if someone is called to active military service. The new policy will be phased in gradually. Beginning January 1, 2018, workers can get 8 weeks of leave at fifty percent of their weekly pay (capped at $630) followed by up to 10 weeks in 2019 and 2010, and 12 weeks by 2021 with two-third pay.
Currently, the federal Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA) allows for 12 weeks of leave with no pay. Unlike the FMLA, New York’s paid leave law will cover full-time and part-time employees and there will be no exemptions for small businesses. Furthermore, an employee only has to be employed by the company for 6 months, compared to twelve months required by the FMLA.
New York is now the fifth state, after California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington to mandate paid leave. New York’s bill is the strongest, however. California and New Jersey offer 6 weeks off, Rhode Island offers 4 weeks, and Washington passed a paid leave law in 2007 but it has not yet been implemented.
In November, Trenton passed an ordinance that entitles certain employees to paid sick leave. Business groups, including The New Jersey Business and Industry Association, State Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Food Council and others, filed a lawsuit in an attempt to void the law. Christopher Gibson, the lawyer for the business groups, argued that paid sick leave should be uniform throughout the state rather than legislated locally by individual municipalities. He further argued that the law was “vague, ambiguous and contrary to New Jersey law.” After hearing three hours of argument, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobsen rejected these arguments and ruled that the ordinance is reasonably related to promoting the health of Trenton’s citizens and the people who work there.
To date, nine municipalities have passed similar paid sick leave laws, including, Jersey City, Newark and Montclair.
The state Assembly Labor Committee voted 6-3 in favor of bill A2354/S785 that would guarantee paid sick leave for most private and public sector employees.
Specifically, the bill states that employees would accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work, with a cap on how much sick leave could be carried over from one year to the next. Workers at companies with less than 10 employees would be able to accrue up to 40 hours of sick time that could be carried over, whereas, workers at companies with 10 or more employees would be able to carry over up to 72 hours of sick leave. Further, sick leave would be allowed for both an employee’s illness or to care for a family member.
The Assembly’s approval is the first of a series of approvals needed for the bill to be sent to Governor Chris Christie for signature or veto.