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New law in New York protects employees for lawful absences

Employees often get stuck between a rock and hard place when it comes to taking a leave of absence. Some employers access “points” for this time off. If an employee gets too many points over too short a period of time, they can lose their jobs.

Well, a new law in New York promises to provide a little relief. On November 21, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the “lawful absences” bill into law. This law will be a game-changer for a lot of workers once it goes into effect Feb. 20, 2023.

Targeting no-fault point systems that treat all absences alike

The law is specifically designed to target “no-fault” point systems in companies that basically treat all absences as equal, regardless of cause. Under these systems, someone who takes off work because they have a serious infection or their child is in the hospital gets the same point against their attendance record as an employee who just forgot to show up to work.

Under the new law, employers cannot retaliate against nor discipline an employee who takes a leave that is allowable under any federal, local or state laws. This means that many kinds of absences are now, in effect, protected activities. This includes leaves of absence for:

  • Medical treatment and recovery time related to workplace injuries
  • Included in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Included in New York State’s Paid Family Leave law

It’s now a labor violation to fire, refuse to promote or demote an employee for taking such leave. Other acts of illegal retaliation would include docking an employee’s pay if the leave was covered or changing their work schedule or location to something less desirable. Furthermore, no protected leave, including workers’ compensation time, can be used when making any kind of employment decisions.

It may take employers and their human resources departments a little bit of time to adjust to the changes, but staying abreast of new laws is all part of being in business. It’s always wisest to get experienced legal guidance to defend your company’s interests in a workplace issue.

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