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New York Labor Law Amendments Clarify Protections for Lawful Absences

On November 21, 2022 New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed Senate Bill S1958A clarifying already existing employee protections for certain absences under federal, local or state law. The changes go into effect 90 days after signing on February 19, 2023.

The Bill amends New York Labor Law Section 215, which makes it unlawful for employers to discharge, penalize, or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against an employee who is absent from work for any reason covered under federal, state or local law, such as leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), New York Paid Sick Leave, New York Paid Family Leave, New York Paid COVID-19 Leave and New York Paid Vaccine Leave.

The amendments also clarify that, “assessing any demerit, occurrence, any other point, or deductions from an allotted bank of time, which subjects or could subject an employee to disciplinary action, which may include but not be limited to failure to receive a promotion or loss of pay” would constitute such unlawful retaliation, discrimination, or penalty.

Next Steps for Employers

Employers with points-based or “no fault” attendance policies, and attendance-based bonus programs should review the terms for compliance with these amendments, as counting lawful absences against employees may constitute retaliation, discrimination, or penalties that are prohibited under this law.

HR Works will continue to monitor this topic and provide updated information as it becomes available.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.