I previously discussed here an amendment to the New York State Human Rights Law which requires employers treat pregnancy as a disability entitled to a reasonable accommodation at work.
In another blog post here I echoed the call for paid family leave for all US workers.
While it is unlikely congress will act any time soon and provide families that benefit, here in New York, the workplace is finally becoming more family-friendly.
Paid Family Leave is Now A Right in New York.
Starting January 1, 2018, New York state joined California, New Jersey and Rhode Island in requiring employers to give employees paid time off for family medical leave.
The new law – the New York Paid Family Leave Benefit Law (PFLBL) – allows approximately 6.4 million eligible New Yorkers to take up to 8 weeks paid time off for family leave; increasing to 10 weeks in 2019; and finally, to a maximum of 12 weeks in 2021.
The maximum paid leave benefit also increases over time – from 50% of an eligible employee’s average weekly wage (“AWW”) starting January 1, 2018; going to 55% in 2019; 60% in 2020 and 67% in 2021. The employee’s AWW is computed by adding his or her wages for the eight weeks prior to the start of paid family leave, and dividing the total by eight. However, the AWW upon which the percentage benefit is based, is capped by the state average weekly wage calculated by the New York Dept. of Labor. (currently $1,296.48).
Eligible employees are those who regularly work at least 20 hours per week and have worked at least 26 consecutive weeks. Part-timers (less than 20 hours per week) are eligible after 175 days; which do not have to be consecutive.
The PFLBL allows eligible employees to take paid time off for (a) a family member with a serious health condition (b) for bonding during the first year of a child’s birth, adoption or placement in foster care; or (c) to assist with family situations arising when your spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent is deployed abroad on active military service.
A serious health condition can be a chronic or temporary physical or mental condition that incapacitates the family member and requires continuing medical care in a hospital, hospice, residential health care facility or continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider. Minor injuries like a cold, flu, upset stomach, etc. are not covered.
Family members include spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, parent-in-law, grandparent and grandchild.
The PFLBL does not provide benefits for an employee’s own illness or injury which may be covered by workers’ compensation or short-term disability benefits.
The PFLBL is funded by employee wage deductions which are capped at 0.126% of the NYSAWW – or $1.65/wk. Employers were allowed to start making the weekly payroll deductions on July 1, 2017.
An employer of at least one employee must provide the benefit through their workers’ compensation insurance carrier or apply to the Workers’ Compensation Board to be self-funded. Even a self-employed person can opt in to the NYPFL and obtain coverage.
Employees who are not eligible can complete an opt-out form to avoid the weekly payroll deduction.
Forms and Notice Requirements
Employers are required to provide employees notice of their rights under the PFLBL in an employee handbook if they have one or elsewhere in writing if they don’t. There is also a required poster. A model policy and poster can be obtained from the PFLBL website — https://www.ny.gov/programs/new-york-state-paid-family-leave.
Fines that can be imposed for notice failures and an employer can be held responsible for the paid leave benefit and insurance payments in the event coverage is not obtained or insurance is not continued during the period of qualifying family leave.
If the need for leave is foreseeable, 30-days’ notice from the employee is required, otherwise the employee must give notice as soon as possible.
Once the employee submits the necessary form and documentation, the employer or carrier has 18 days to respond to the request for paid family leave.
The documentation required to be submitted by the employee depends on whether the leave is for a family member’s serious health condition; the birth/adoption/foster care placement of a child; or military deployment of a family member.
If you have any questions regarding your rights under the PFLBL, contact me below, visit PFLBL website here, ask your employer their carrier, or human resources manager for more information.
Please share your comments or questions below.
Ralph A. Somma is a Long Island, NY employment lawyer who handles cases involving discrimination, harassment, unpaid wages and overtime.
Click Here to schedule a FREE telephone consultation.