Earlier this year, Westchester County, New York passed Local Law No. 3-2019 also known as the “Safe Time Leave Law” requiring all private employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid leave for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking. The safe time leave provided for under the new law shall be in addition to sick leave provided for under the county’s earned sick leave law.
The Safe Time Leave Law, effective October 30, 2019, applies to employees that are employed in Westchester County for more than 90 days in a calendar year on a full-time or part-time basis, with a few exceptions. The leave can be used to attend or testify in criminal or civil court proceedings related to domestic violence or human trafficking and/or move to a safe location. Employers may require employees to provide reasonable documentation that leave was taken for a covered purpose, which may include any of the following:
- a court appearance ticket or subpoena;
- a copy of a police report; or
- an affidavit from an authorized person from a reputable organization known to help victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.
To take the leave, an employee must make a request verbally, in writing, via electronic means, or by any other means acceptable to an employer. If the use is foreseeable, an employee shall make a good faith effort to provide notice to the employer in advance and, when possible, schedule the leave so it does not unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.
Employers must keep information they receive from the employee confidential, unless the employee provides written permission to disclose the information or a law requires disclosure. Any health or safety information must be maintained on a separate form and in a separate file from other personnel information.
Under the law, employers are not allowed to take any of the following actions:
- deny safe time leave covered employees are entitled to use;
- discharge, suspend, demote, or reduce the covered employee’s hours;
- threaten to discharge, suspend, demote, or reduce the covered employee’s hours;
- report or threaten to report suspected citizenship or immigration status or the suspected citizenship or immigration status of a family member to a federal, state, or local agency; or
- include the valid use of safe time leave as an absence that may lead to or result in discipline, discharge, demotion, or suspension.
Aggrieved employees may file a lawsuit or a complaint with the Westchester County Department of Weights and Measures – Consumer Protection within one year of the alleged violation.
Employers must provide all employees with a copy of the law and a written notice of how it applies to them within 90 days of the law’s effective date, and all new hires must be given the same documentation upon hire. Employers must post a copy of the law and the safe time leave poster in a conspicuous location accessible to the employees. An employer that willfully violates the notice and posting requirements may be subject to a fine of up to $500.