image_pdfimage_print

New York’s Paid Sick Leave Law – Who Does it Apply to and How/When Does it Accrue?

In April, New York enacted mandatory sick leave laws to go into effect on September 30, 2020. While the law goes into effect at the end of the month, employees cannot start using any accrued sick leave until January 2021.

The amount of leave depends on the size of the employer and the employer’s net income from the prior year. The same is true as to whether the employee is entitled to paid or unpaid sick leave.

Employers must count both full-time and part-time employees. It still unclear whether employees that work outside of New York would also be included in the count.

How is the amount of time due to employees calculated?

Employers with4 or fewer employees in any calendar year and a net income of $1 million or less = at least 40 hours of unpaid sick leave in each calendar year

Employers with 4 or fewer employees in any calendar year and a net income of more than $1 million = at least 40 hours of paid sick leave in each calendar year

Employers with 5 -99 employees in any calendar year = at least 40 hours of paid sick leave in each calendar year

Employers with 100 or more employees in any calendar year = at least 56 hours of paid sick leave in each calendar year

An employee is to be paid their regular rate of pay or minimum wage, whichever is greater.

How is sick leave accrued?

Sick leave is accrued at a rate not less than one (1) hour for every 30 hours worked.

Unused and accrued sick leave can be carried over to the following year. However, employers can limit the amount of time used in one year to 40 hours or 56 hours during one calendar year. The law does not require payment of unused, accrued sick time upon an employee’s departure.

Employers can also frontload the sick leave an employee is entitled to, but if they do, they cannot then reduce the amount of sick leave based on the actual time worked by the employee.

Sick leave will begin to accrue on September 30, 2020 to be used starting January 1, 2021. For those employees hired January 1, 2021 or after, the sick leave can be used once it accrues.

What are some reasons an employee can use New York Paid Sick Leave?

Employees can use sick leave:  

(1) to care for an employee or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or mental health condition, whether it has been diagnosed, or requires medical care at the time the leave is requested; or

(2) for the diagnosis, care or treatment of an employee’s or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or for preventative care for the employee or family member; or

(3) when an employee or the employee’s family member has been a victim of domestic violence, a family offense, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking receives assistance, attends events related to this experience, or takes any other action(s) to protect the health of safety of the employee or employee’s family member.

NYPSL also offers definitions of relevant terms such as “family member”, “parent” and “child”.

Must employers keep records of the sick leave? Yes.

Employers must keep records of sick leave provided to employees for six (6) years. Employees can make oral or written requests for the leave. The employer is obligated to provide a summary of the leave accrued and used by the employee. Employers cannot require employees to disclose confidential information pertaining to the request.

Can an employer retaliate against an employee for their use of NYPSL? No.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who use NYSPL. Employees must be returned to the same position, same pay and other terms and conditions of employment they maintained prior to their use of the sick leave.

It is expected that the Department of Labor will provide additional guidance and regulations to assist employers/employees with this new law.

There are other leave laws that are currently in effect, including, without limitation: FMLA, New York Paid Family Leave, Family First Coronavirus Response Act, New York City Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law.

For more information about your rights and options, contact Sheree Donath at sheree@donathlaw.com or at 516-522-2743.

(Attorney Advertising)

Does Hybrid/Virtual Back To School = A Hybrid/Remote Work Schedule?

As parents try to navigate the evolving requirements for their children to go back to school, they are also faced with the hardship of wondering what will happen with their employment. Faced with uncertainties about the number of days children may attend school in person or virtually, causes anxiety about their working relation. Some employers have extended work from home situations into next year, while others are mandating a return to in office work.

As school opening plans remain fluid, employees may want to engage in discussions with their employers now to determine their options and what will work best for the employer and the employee. In an effort to maintain a positive working relation, below are some possible options that employers and employees should consider:

(a) a full work from home option

(b) partial work from home option, with the flexibility to alter days in the office and working from home

(c) a flexible work schedule allowing employees to work different hours or different days to complete their work

(d) a modification of the employees schedule from a full time to part time schedule

(e) determining if the employer has or will provide onsite childcare or if the employee can bring their child to work with them

(f) seeking a childcare allowance as part of the employee’s compensation

(g) seeking a leave of absence

The above list is not an exhaustive list, but rather suggestions of how to modify an employee’s current work situation and would need to pertain to each individual situation.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, employees can also seek time off to care for their children due to the closures of schools. For more information on the FFCRA click here.

Employers must be careful to abide by the laws in allowing parents to care for their kids. Employers making decisions regarding employees requests for accommodations must do so in a fair and non-discriminatory fashion. Failure to do so, may result in claims of gender, familial status and/or caregiver discrimination and retaliation, amongst others.

Employees working from home may also be entitled to expense reimbursement for those expenses associated with the cost of a home office (i.e. computers, printers, ink, pens, paper, etc.). This too should be discussed with the employer to determine what the employer’s expense plan may require for reimbursement.

For counseling and guidance on your current work situation or to find out your options, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw.com.

(Attorney Advertisement)

Some Helpful Links for Employers and Employees as Workplaces Begin to Reopen With Social Distancing Requirements, Among Others

While many businesses will continue having their employees work remotely from home, others will begin bringing employees back to the workplace shortly. In doing so, there are guidelines that employers must follow and information that employees should be aware of upon their return.

The below links are provided to help both employers and employees to know their rights and obligations. These are meant to offer some guidance to the workforce, but is not an inclusive list of resources.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus

https://www.eeoc.gov/coronavirus

https://dhr.ny.gov/coronavirus-discrimination

https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/media/covid19.page

Feel free to contact Sheree Donath for answers to questions that are specific to your rights as an employee and what you can or should expect from your employer.

(Attorney Advertising)

What is Your Ideal Job Offer? Rank Your Priorities

Amidst the uncertainty in today’s world, one thing you can do is determine what your ideal job would look like if you had the ability to choose or create that role. Whether you are currently working from home, are working part time or are presently unemployed, now is a good time to reflect upon life and assess what is truly important to you in the future. In doing so, one thing to evaluate is what you want (or expect) from your job or your employer. There are many items to consider. Some of the considerations may be essential and others nothing more than a dream, but ultimately, if you don’t know what you are looking for, then you will never be able to achieve your goal.

So during this period of reflection, take the time and rank your job priorities. Below is an non-exhaustive list of items for consideration. Review them, consider them, then make a list in order of importance to you. This list is not in any particular order and is not meant to sway your decision as to importance. What is valuable to you, may not be valuable to your spouse, friend, relative, colleague, or a stranger on the street. This list is meant simply to assist you in creating your own categorization of what you are looking for in the currently changing world and job market. In creating your list, keep this thought in mind: in order to be truly happy with my job/career, I would like my job to offer … . Now start to create a list that you can use to obtain your goal.

Start your list with, “I am seeking the following from my job/career” and begin ranking your priorities so that you can negotiate these terms into your next offer letter/employment contract.

(a) How are you looking to be compensated? salary, commission, bonuses, equity, stock options, deferred compensation

(b) Will you receive or do you need health insurance?

(c) Are you looking for a flexible work schedule?

(d) Are you looking for the ability to work from home?

(e) Will you be required to relocate yourself and/or your family?

(f) Will you be subject to restrictions on your future employment (i.e. no non-solicitation or non-compete provisions) or will you have the freedom to change jobs?

(g) Are you going to be an at will employee or will you receive a contract with a set term of employment?

(h) Will you receive severance if you are terminated without cause or resign for good reason?

(i) Do you want/need paid vacation time? Paid sick leave? Paid time off?

(j) Are you looking to be a partner? Owner? Employee? Consultant?

(k) Do you want a specific title?

(l) Is this a position with promotional opportunities?

(m) Will you have direct or indirect reports? Do you want to manage others?

(n) Will you receive expense reimbursements?

(o) Are you being offered perks like gym membership, car allowance, monthly stipend, free coffee, etc.?

(p) Will you be working in a collaborative work environment?

(q) Do you have the ability to work on your own and without much oversight?

(r) Is there frequent business travel or no business travel at all?

Remember in making your list, that the above is not exclusive, so do not forget to add additional items to your list that are not listed above but may be extremely important to you.

Click here to contact Sheree Donath to schedule a consultation to obtain assistance in negotiating terms of new employment or if you have received a job offer that you would like to have reviewed, discussed and negotiated.

(Attorney advertising)

Important Information to Understand the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The United States Department of Labor released guidance regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act which goes into effect on April 1, 2020.

For more specific information related to this act, review the questions and answers posted at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions.

Donath Law, LLC is available to answer any questions that employees have regarding this new act or the current state of their employment. For assistance, contact Sheree Donath at 516-522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw.

Coronavirus and the workplace. What does this mean for me?

One of the concerns with the current outbreak is how will the coronavirus affect the employee, the workplace and future employment. Employees and employers have many concerns about the changing environment and the unknown. So how will this new landscape be navigated? What should employees expect?

Per OSHA guidelines, employees are entitled to “workplaces that are free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Employers should remind their employees of their policies regarding sick leave. Employees should understand their rights if they get the virus, have to care for someone who was diagnosed with the virus, or are concerned about being in the workplace with others who may be in contact with those with the virus. Employees may be protected by Federal FMLA, NYS FMLA, or worker’s compensation if they got sick at work or during business travel.

Employees should be made aware as to whether they will receive pay during any required leave(s) of absence.

Employers should review their travel policies and the requirements that employees travel for business and to conferences and share this information with their employees so that the employees are aware of what to expect.

Employers must abide by the laws and company policy and reiterate their policies regarding, among others, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, anti-retaliation, and anti-bullying, in the workplace.

Employers should determine if their business allows for employees to work from home? Are all employees able to work from home? What happens if the employee’s children’s school closes? Employer’s policies, should be clear, consistent and non-discriminatory.

Employers should be mindful of requesting and requiring employees to provide too much medical information from their employees. Any medical information/exams must relate to the job and must be in line with privacy and discrimination laws.

The New York Attorney General’s office has recently issued guidelines specific to the coronavirus and the workplace. To view these guidelines click on the following link: https://ag.ny.gov/coronavirus.

For more information on your rights and options in the workplace during this time of turmoil, contact Sheree Donath at sheree@donathlaw or at 516-522-2743 to schedule a consultation.

Does Your Employer Have a Policy Prohibiting Workplace Romance or Requiring Co-Workers in a Personal Relationship to Sign a Love Contract?

flower-chocolates.jpg

In an effort to protect against claims of sexual harassment, conflicts of interest, favoritism, retaliation and to ensure objectivity in the workplace, many employers maintain a policy that prohibit employees from engaging in a personal relationship with each. Other employers are taking a different approach and requiring employees engaged in a personal relationship to sign a “love contract.” So what do each of these mean and what is allowed at your company?

Your Employee Handbook may contain a “non-fraternization” policy. Such policy prohibits employees from engaging in a “office romance”, i.e. romantic or dating relationships, cohabitation, or marriage with a colleague. An employee’s violation of the policy may result in an employee’s transfer or termination. Alternatively, the policy may require that if a personal relationship does ensue, that the employees disclose this relationship to HR. Steps can then be taken by the Company to eliminate any real or perceived appearance of authority between the employees. The policy may allow continued employment by both employees, provided the employer ensures that there is no direct reporting relationship between the employees. If there is a direct reporting relation, the employer may reserve its right to transfer or terminate the employment of one of the employees. Employers may also have policies that limit knowledge of the relationship between the employees in the workplace, i.e. policies that state no kissing, no hand holding, no public displays of affection.

Some employers understand that employees who spend 40+ hours together may result in employees engaging in a personal relationship and feel that having a “no-fraternization” policy is not realistic for their company. Instead these Company’s require that employees in a personal relationship sign a “Love Contract“. A “Love Contract” is also known as a consensual relationship agreement that both employees are required to sign.

Love Contracts require that the employees acknowledge they are in a consensual, romantic relationship and that this relationship will not affect their jobs at the company. The agreement will require the employees to acknowledge the Company’s Equal Employment Opportunity Policy and the Company’s Anti-Harassment Policy. The employees agree not to take actions that will affect the other’s employment either positively or negatively, including not to take actions that will result in a conflict of interest and not to seek a position that would result in a reporting relationship between them. The Company requires the employees to acknowledge that if a conflict of interest is created or determined then one of them may need to be transferred, demoted, resign or be terminated.

Love Contracts also may require, among others, that the employees acknowledge that there will be no acts of favoritism; that the employees agree to notify the Company if the relationship ends; that the Love Contract is confidential and not intended to invade the employees’ privacy, but just to affirm that the employees will follow Company policies; and that if the romantic relationship ends there will be no workplace retaliation of any kind.

Employers have these policies to help protect the employer from potential liability and from claims of sexual harassment and retaliation, among others. Employers are also concerned about what occurs if the employees break-off the romantic relation and one of the two employees is unhappy with the other. The policies established are done with the intent to limit the Company’s exposure, if any.

Employees involved in an “office romance” or considering dating a colleague should find out what the Company’s policy is on such personal relationships.

A Love Contracts is a binding agreement. Just like an offer letter, employment agreement, non-compete agreement, severance agreement, etc. a love contract is a legal document. Any such agreement, should be reviewed and understood before you sign it.

To learn more about your rights at the workplace contact Sheree Donath at Sheree@DonathLaw.com. 

Halloween in the Workplace – BEWARE!!

Halloween is a time for fun. But what does that mean when you are at work? Halloween in the workplace can be very tricky and not much of a treat.

If you are going to wear a costume to work, be mindful of the following items, among others:

  • costumes should not be sexy or provocative;
  • costumes should comply with workplace dress code policies;
  • costumes should comply with workplace anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies;
  • costumes should not be inappropriate;
  • costumes should not be religious;
  • costumes should not be offensive to others;
  • costumes should not be so realistic or scary that they may result in health issues to others; and
  • costumes should comply with all safety requirements of your office

Keep in mind that Halloween is a religious holiday. As such, some employees may not want to participate in a Halloween party, costumes or events because of their religious beliefs. Employees should not be mandated to attend any Halloween parties or events or made to feel bad about their decisions. Employees should not be retaliated against for their non-attendance on Halloween or afterwards. Employees should not be harassed by colleagues or their supervisors to attend these events.

Employees should be reminded of all company policies prior to Halloween as Halloween events and parties could result in legal claims of, without limitation, sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, overtime, worker’s compensation.

Employees who believe they have been treated in an inappropriate or illegal manner should immediately report the conduct as required by their employer. They may also want to consult with an attorney to find out more about their rights and options and to determine if they can take legal action, if they so choose. Contact Sheree Donath at (516) 522-2743 or at Sheree@DonathLaw.com to obtain more information to learn more about your rights and obligations at work.

What Can I Ask for When I’m Negotiating a Severance Package?

Employees who receive a severance package should have the document reviewed by an attorney to ensure they understand what they are signing. They can also seek to have the package improved. In doing so, may employees ask for some or all of the below:

  • Additional severance
  • Payment of severance over time or in lump sum depending on what is more beneficial for the employee
  • Health benefit continuation for themselves and family
  • Bonus or pro rata bonus
  • Accelerated vesting of options/equity
  • Return of their personal property
  • Outplacement assistance or money in lieu of outplacement
  • References or a departure statement
  • Mutual release
  • Mutual non-disparagement
  • Release from, or limitations on, non-compete or non-solicit provisions
  • Expense reimbursement
  • Removal of any mitigation of severance offer language
  • Modification of the agreement language

For more information about your rights and options and to determine how you may request some or all of the above items, contact Sheree Donath to schedule a consultation.

(Attorney Advertising)

What Terms are Generally Found in a Severance Package?

Employees departing from a job (voluntarily or involuntarily) may receive a severance package. Why? Because the Company has decided that it is in the Company’s best interest to have the employee sign a document with certain specific terms that are protective to the employer. Some Company’s have a severance “policy” while others believe offering employees severance makes good business sense. Regarding the latter, many Company’s feel that in providing employees severance (sometimes even a minimal amount of pay), the employer is generally obtaining peace of mind that the former employer will not raise any claims in a government agency or in court against the employer.

So what terms are generally found in a severance agreement? Below are just a few of the many terms that can appear:

* Consideration – the amount the employee is to be paid in severance, the payment structure and possibly payment of employee’s health insurance or COBRA;

* General Release of Claims – employee to release the company (as well as its directors, officers, parent, subsidiary, etc,) from any claims from the beginning of the world until the date of signature;

* Confidentiality – employee’s agreement to keep the terms of the severance offer and the circumstances of their departure confidential;

* Non-Disparagement – employee’s agreement not to disparage or say anything bad (verbally or on social media) about the employer (officers, directors, parent subsidiary, etc.);

* No Re-Hire – employee agrees not to seek employment with the employer (parent, subsidiary, etc,) at a later date;

* Cooperation – employee agrees to cooperate with the employer should employer need transition assistance or if the employee has information the employer needs at a later date;

* Non-Compete / Non-Solicitation – employer restates any continuing obligation the employee has previously agreed to by written document or establishes new terms that the employee is being asked to agree to in conjunction with the signing of the severance agreement;

* Choice of Law/ Arbitration – employer sets out what Court and what law applies to the agreement and/or the requirement that the employee arbitrate any claims that may be raised;

* Effective Date of Agreement – the agreement will set forth the time period the employee has to review the agreement and whether the employee can revoke their signature;

* Right to Consult with Counsel – the agreement should state that the employee has a right to have the document reviewed with an attorney prior to signing the agreement. A severance package is an enforceable legal document. Any employee who receives a severance package should have the agreement reviewed prior to signature so as to understand the terms within, if there is any opportunity to increase the offer and what, if any, concerns the attorney sees regarding the language in the agreement and the basis for the employee’s termination / resignation.

Click here to schedule a consultation with Sheree Donath to have your severance package reviewed or learn more about your rights and options as an employee or former employee.