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New NYC Law Gives Workers Power to Alter Work Schedules

Wednesday March 21st 2018

Starting this July, employers in New York City will be required to allow workers to make temporary work schedule changes for qualifying personal events.

The New York City Council passed the bill in January that allows for two such changes per year.

The requirement is drawing comparisons to San Francisco’s Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance because it gives workers the right to ask their employers for a flexible or predictable work schedule.

Legal Definitions

Beginning July 18, 2018, workers who have been employed for at least 120 days and who work at least 80 hours in New York City in a calendar year are allowed to make two temporary schedule changes per year for personal events.

The law defines a temporary change as “a limited alteration” to an employee’s work hours, times, or locations “including, but not limited to, using paid time off, working remotely, swapping or shifting work hours and using short-term unpaid leave.”

A personal event is defined in the law as:

  1. “the need for a caregiver to provide care to a minor child or care recipient;”
  2. “an employee’s need to attend a legal proceeding or hearing for subsistence benefits to which the employee, a family member or the employee’s care recipient is a party;” or
  3. “any circumstance that would constitute a basis for permissible use of safe time or sick time.”

Worker and Employer Obligations

Workers and employers have specific obligations under the law. Workers are required to notify their employer as soon as they become aware of their need for a schedule change and specify that it’s for a personal event. Although the law does not require that the initial request be submitted in writing, workers must submit the request in writing as soon as they are able to – but no later than the second business day after the worker returns to work. If the worker does not fulfill this obligation, the employer is not obligated to respond to the request in writing.

Employers are required to respond to workers’ requests immediately. The response does not have to be in writing but, once the worker submits the required written request upon returning to work, the employer must provide a written response within 14 days.

The employer’s written response must include the following:

  • whether the employer agrees to the temporary schedule change as requested by the worker or if the temporary change will be approved as leave without pay;
  • an explanation for denial of a temporary work schedule change; and
  • the number of requests and business days the worker has left in the calendar year based on the employer’s decision in the written response.

A schedule change request may be denied only if the worker has already exhausted the two allotted requests in the calendar year, or if an exemption applies.

The temporary work schedule change law does not apply to the following workers:

  • those covered by collective bargaining agreements if the agreement waives provisions of the bill and addresses temporary changes to work schedules;
  • those who have been employed by the employer for fewer than 120 days;
  • those who work fewer than 80 hours in the city in a calendar year; and
  • those employed by an employer whose primary business is in the entertainment industry.

Interaction with the Earned Sick and Safe Time Law

The temporary work schedule change law does not require that workers use leave accrued under the city’s Earned Sick and Safe Time (EST) law before requesting a schedule change.

Additionally, any unpaid leave granted for a personal event as defined under the temporary work schedule law does not count toward employer obligations under the EST and any leave granted under the EST does not count toward employer obligations under the temporary work schedule law.

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