In the Thick of Paid Sick
Thursday, May 08, 2014
Posted by: Gloria Dawson
Love it or hate it Paid Sick Leave is here in New York City. There's a lot for restaurant operators to learn, so across the City the NYS Restaurant Association has sponsored educational events to help the industry understand the new law. In mid-April members of Brooklyn Allied Bars and Restaurants (BABAR) and the NYS Restaurant Association gathered at Spike Hill in Williamsburg to ask lots of questions and generally figure out what Paid Sick Leave is all about with the help of some members of the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Marla Tepper, the General Counsel and Deputy Commissioner of Legal Services at the department started off by saying, "We call it Paid Sick Leave, but it's actually about paid and unpaid sick leave."
She means the law limits the amount of sick days employers are required to pay their employees. For every 30 hours of work, an employee accrues one hour of paid sick leave. Accrual began on April 1st (or the first day of employment for new employees) and is available for use after July 30th (or 120 days after the first day of employment for new employees). The law limits any employee to 40 hours of paid sick leave.
Many employers have expressed concern that employees might abuse the system. But Tepper reassured the group that there has "not been notable employee abuse." And "The law allows employers to take action if an employee abuses sick leave."
So what is considered sick leave? The definition goes beyond what you might think. Taking time to go to the doctor or take a family member to the doctor is considered sick leave. And the definition of family member is also broader than you might have previously understood. Under this law the child or parent of a domestic partner, for instance, is considered a family member.
But this doesn't mean that employees can call in sick right before a shift to take someone to a planned doctor's visit.
"There are two types of sick leave," said Tepper. "Foreseeable and unforeseeable."
For sick leave used for a foreseeable incident, such as a planned doctor's appointment, an employer can require employees to give up to seven days notice. The law becomes a little more nuanced when it comes to unforeseeable sick leave, the sort that most people are more than familiar with, such as an employee coming down with the flu. Reasonable notice is required, said Tepper. Of course, for early shifts even a twelve hour notice might not be reasonable, she said.
This was a source of confusion for Joseph Schmitz, a partner at Spike Hill, who found the event helpful but left with some questions about this aspect of the policy. "We could really use guidance on notification," he said after the event had concluded.
For now, whatever policies restaurant operators choose to install regarding Paid Sick Leave, Tepper recommends documenting them and relaying all policies to employees. A restaurant might require asking for written notice for foreseeable sick days, for example.
Dave Rosen, owner of The Woods restaurant in Williamsburg and founding member of BABAR, said, "The main thing is just documenting everything to protect the employees and employer."
With a little bit of planning, here's hoping that Tepper was right when she called Paid Sick Leave "a win-win for employers and employees."10 Tips for Restaurant Employers to Provide Notice of Employee Rights >>
More resources for Paid Sick Leave in NYC:
3 Ways Restaurant Employers Record Giving Notice of Employee Rights >>
NYC Restaurant Guide: Earned Sick Time Act >>