Legal updates: Safe time in NYC, pay query ban in Albany

Cities and municipalities continue to pass new laws affecting how employers manage their workforces. Here is a look at the new NYC “safe time” leave law and Albany County’s new rules on interview questions.

NYC ‘safe time’ law: Leave for victims

New York City has amended its administrative code to afford leave to victims of family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking and human trafficking. The amendment takes effect May 5, 2018.

Chapter 8 of Title 20 to the NYC Administrative Code will now be referred to as the “Earned Safe and Sick Time Act.” Employers with five or more employees are required to provide a minimum of one hour of safe/sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers are not required to provide more than 40 hours of safe/sick time per calendar year.

Reasons for leave

An employee who is a victim (or who has a family member who has been a victim) is entitled to use safe time to:

HR Forms D
  • Obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center or other shelter or services program for relief from a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking
  • Participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee’s family members from future harm
  • Meet with a civil attorney or other social service provider to obtain information and advice on, and prepare for or participate in, any criminal or civil proceeding, including but not limited to: matters related to a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, human trafficking, custody, visitation, matrimonial issues, orders of protection, immigration, housing, discrimination in employment, housing or consumer credit
  • File a complaint or domestic incident report with law enforcement
  • Meet with a district attorney’s office
  • Enroll children in a new school
  • Take other actions necessary to maintain, improve or restore the physical, psychological or economic health or safety of the employee or the employee’s family member or to protect those who associate or work with the employee.

Notice requirements

Employers may request documentation for an absence of more than three consecutive work days for safe time. Documentation signed by an employee or volunteer of a victim services agency, an attorney, a member of the clergy or a medical or other professional service provider constitutes reasonable documentation.

A police or court record, or even a notarized letter from the employee explaining his or her need to take safe leave, may also be considered reasonable documentation.

Employers are prohibited from requiring the documentation to specify the details of the family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking or human trafficking.

Employers must notify employees of their right to safe leave within 30 days of the amendment’s May 5 effective date.

Albany County bans asking about past pay

The Albany County Legislature amended its County Human Rights Law by passing a law prohibiting all employment agencies and Albany County employers with four or more employees from doing any of the following:

  • Screening job applicants based on their current wages and benefits or other compensation or salary history
  • Requiring that an applicant’s prior wages satisfy minimum or maximum criteria
  • Requesting an applicant’s prior wages or salary history or requiring an applicant to provide that information as a condition of being interviewed or considered for employment
  • Seeking the applicant’s salary history from a current or former employer.

The law took effect Dec. 17, 2017.

The law does provide one exception: an employer or employment agency may confirm prior wages (including benefits or other compensation or salary history) after the employer extends an offer of employment, with the applicant’s written authorization.

Part of a growing trend

Albany County’s law, like similar legislation enacted in other jurisdictions, aims to eliminate the wage gap between women and men. These laws are becoming a growing trend. New York City, Massachusetts, Puerto Rico and the city of Philadelphia have all passed similar prohibitions.

Advice: Albany County employers (including employers with offices in Albany County) should immediately remove all salary history inquiries from their job applications. In addition, HR and management employees who are involved in the hiring process should be immediately notified of the new law.

As this prohibition continues to gain momentum, employers should keep abreast of further legislative action in other geographical areas as well.

Jacqueline Smith is an associate in Bond, Schoeneck & King’s Garden City office. Megan Collelo is an associate in the firm’s Albany office.