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Labor department issues reminder of new law protecting workers who take legal absences

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  • Staff Report 

The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) issued a reminder on Monday that a new law is in effect that reiterates the state’s commitment to protecting workers who take legally protected absences from work.

The law, signed in November by Governor Kathy Hochul, 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. This includes time off covered by New York State Paid Family Leave and New York State Paid Sick Leave.

“This is a major victory for all workers across New York State,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “Employees should not have to fear for their jobs when taking legally protected time away from work. This new law reassures our workforce that we value their work and their well-being.”

The law states that employers are specifically prohibited from assigning or deducting points under an absence control policy for using legally protected absences. These absences include those related to sickness, disability, pregnancy and caregiving obligations. Other examples of legally protected absences include domestic violence leave, jury duty leave, voting leave and blood donor leave.

If employers violate this law, they will face penalties of up to $10,000 for initial violations and up to $20,000 for subsequent violations. Impacted employees may also be eligible to receive back pay and other damages.

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Additionally, the Department of Labor reminds New Yorkers that it is illegal for employers to retaliate against an employee for asserting their rights under the labor law. Retaliation can occur in many forms, including dismissal from employment, reduction of hours, alteration of work schedule, pay reduction, disciplinary action, assignment to difficult duties and more.

“Protecting the rights of workers is critical to ensuring the wellbeing and quality of life of New York families,” said Senator Liz Krueger. “We have several laws in place to allow workers to take leave for important reasons, like caring for a sick child, voting, or giving blood. Employers must follow the letter and the spirit of those laws, and not penalize workers for exercising their right to take legally protected leave. I thank Governor Hochul for signing this bill last fall, and Commissioner Reardon for swiftly implementing it.”

Workers who believe their employers have violated state labor law should report it to NYSDOL’s Division of Labor Standards at 1-888-52-LABOR or [email protected]. In 2022, the Division of Labor Standards investigated more than 5,500 reports of labor violations related to COVID-19 and New York State Paid Sick Leave from workers across New York State.

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