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NYC Employees Can Sue for Violations of the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act

Effective March 20, 2024, New York City (NYC) employees now have a private right of action to sue employers for violations of the city’s Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA). This means employees can bypass the administrative complaint process and head straight to court for alleged ESSTA violations, potentially opening a new wave of legal challenges for non-compliant businesses. Previously, employees filed complaints with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), which could investigate and assess penalties. Now, lawsuits can occur regardless of whether a DCWP complaint is filed. 

Under the law (Int. No. 563-A), complainants can now file lawsuits seeking various remedies, including: 

  • Reimbursement of denied earned sick and safe time; 
  • Compensatory damages for lost wages and benefits; 
  • Punitive damages in certain cases; and 
  • Attorneys’ fees and costs. 

Complainants will have two years from learning of a potential violation to file a claim. 

Next Steps 

Employers should ensure their time off policies and procedures clearly explain ESSTA benefits, including accrual, usage rules, and complaint procedures. Employers should also train managers/supervisors on compliance with the ESSTA, emphasizing employee rights and proper handling of requests for sick and safe time, and properly tracking employee-earned sick and safe time accruals to avoid inaccurate calculations or denials. 

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.