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January 14, 2021

Legal News

January 14, 2021

2021 – Employment Law Update

As always, with the start of a new year come various changes in the law. Below we have compiled a summary of some of the most essential legal updates that may effect your business and/or employment:

New York Paid Family Leave

As we have covered previously, New York Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) provides eligible employees paid time off to bond with a newborn, care for certain family members when they are ill, or to assist loved ones when a family member is deployed with the military. Also, since April 2020, PFL benefits may be used if a worker or their minor dependent child is under an order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.

Effective as of January 1, 2021, the amount and duration of PFL benefits are increasing. Now, eligible employees may receive 67% of their average weekly wage, capped at 67% of the New York State average weekly wage (“AWW”), for up to twelve (12) weeks. The AWW for 2021 is $1,450.17, resulting in a maximum weekly benefit of $971.61 ($1,450.17 x .67).

It is important to note that while on Paid Family leave, New York guarantees: (1) employees have job protection when they return from their leave, (2) employees can keep their health insurance while on leave, and (3) employers will not be permitted to discriminate or retaliate against employees taking Paid Family Leave.

Also, some employees may be eligible to receive benefits under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) for certain birth, health, military, and COVID-related reasons in addition to their PFL benefits. Due to the many possible ways in which these laws interact, it is essential that employers work with their legal counsel and human resources professionals to ensure their policies and procedures keep up with this ever-evolving landscape. Likewise, employees are advised to stay informed of their various rights and options in the event they experience any of the circumstances which may entitle them to leave.  

New York (Un)Paid Sick Leave

As of September 30, 2020, employees across New York state began to accrue sick leave at a rate of one (1) hour for every thirty (30) hours worked. And beginning on January 1, 2021, employees became eligible to start using their accrued leave. The amount and type of leave employers must provide depends on a company’s size and income levels. For example, employers with 0-4 employees and a net income of $1 million or less must provide up to forty (40) hours of unpaid sick leave. If a company’s income is $1 million or more, or if it has 5-99 employees, it must provide up to forty (40) hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. Finally, if an employer has one hundred (100) or more employees, irrespective of income, employees must be provided with at least fifty-six (56) hours of paid sick leave.  

Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA)

ESSTA was amended in September 2020 to better align its language with New York state’s Paid Sick Leave laws. For example, ESSTA changes eliminated the 120-day waiting period for new hires to utilize accrued leave time, allowing employees to access their accrued safe and sick time immediately as beginning Jan 1, 2021.

Additionally, New York City employers have additional obligations under the ESSTA which are distinct from the NYS Paid Sick Leave laws. Under the ESSTA, employers must report – either on each employee’s pay statement or separately – the amount of safe and sick leave accrued and used during each pay period and each employee’s total balance of accrued leave. Employers must also post an updated notice of rights under the NYC ESSTA and provide it to employees at the time of hire. Further, employees are no longer required to work at least eighty (80) hours within NYC to be eligible under the ESSTA. Lastly, if the employer invokes it right to request medical corroboration of an employee’s use of three or more consecutive workdays of leave under the ESSTA, the employer must reimburse the employee for costs and expenses incurred when obtaining supporting documentation.  

Minimum Wage Increases

As has been the case for a few years now, different areas across New York state will increase the minimum wage as of December 31, 2020, as part of a long term goal to rase the minimum wage to fifteen dollars ($15) per hour statewide. Specifically, Long Island and Westchester County increased the minimum wage from $13.00/hour to $14.00/hour and it is anticipated that the minimum wage in Long Island and Westchester will reach $15.00 by the end of 2021. The remainder of New York State has raised its minimum wage from $11.80 to $12.50. As for New York City, the minimum wage had already reached $15.00 per hour, so wages will remain steady in the city for now.

Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash
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