Westchester County, NY Publishes Paid Safe Leave Guidance as Law Takes Effect

The Westchester County Human Rights Commission, the agency responsible for conducting public outreach for the Westchester County Safe Time Leave Law, published a host of information, including a copy of the law, a Notice of Employee Rights (the “Notice”), Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”), and the mandatory poster in time for the law’s October 30, 2019 effective date. Under the law, all private employers must provide up to 40 hours of paid leave for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

The Commission’s FAQs mostly restate the law’s requirements, but the FAQs clarify the rate of pay employees must receive when taking leave. Specifically, employers must pay employees the hourly rate they normally earn during hours worked. However, the FAQs do not address pay calculations for employees not paid solely on an hourly basis, e.g., piece-rate workers or commission-only employees.

The law requires employers to allow covered employees to take up to 40 hours of paid leave in “any year or calendar year.” While this language is ambiguous, Littler confirmed with the Commission that the Commission interprets this provision as follows: if an employer adopts a year other than a calendar year for purposes of complying with the law, that year’s timeframe is used to determine whether an employee has used 40 paid leave hours. If an employer does not designate a year, the calendar year is the default year.

Under the law, employers must give a copy of both the Notice and law to employees at the commencement of employment or within 90 days of the law's effective date (January 28, 2020), whichever is later. Additionally, employers must conspicuously display a copy of the law and the county-issued poster in English, Spanish and any other language the county deems appropriate. At this time, however, the poster and law are available in English only.

In Westchester County, successfully navigating all potentially relevant laws can be challenging. The county is unique because it has standalone paid sick and paid safe ordinances that county officials have structured differently. Additionally, it has an ordinance requiring employers with four or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation to victims of domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking. Moreover, on November 18, 2019, a similar New York State law will take effect. Whether, when, and how these laws, and other potentially relevant leave and accommodation laws, interact, may feel overwhelming, so employers with questions should consult counsel.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.