New law aims to protect workers who take lawful absences

A new state law that aims to protect workers who take legally protected absences from work is now in effect.

Signed in November 2022 by Gov. Kathy Hochul and effective this week, the new law clarifies that it is illegal for employers to “threaten, penalize, discriminate or retaliate” against employees for using absences protected under federal, state, or local law, including time off covered by New York State Paid Family Leave and New York State Paid Sick Leave.

Employers are specifically prohibited from assigning or deducting points under an absence control policy for using legally protected absences, including those related to sickness, disability, pregnancy and caregiving obligations, according to the New York State Department of Labor.

Other examples of legally protected absences include domestic violence leave, jury duty leave, voting leave and blood donor leave. Employers who violate this law face penalties up to $10,000 for initial violations and up to $20,000 for subsequent violations, while impacted employees may also be eligible to receive backpay and other damages, according to the Department of Labor.

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