New York City Workers Allowed To Sue For Sick Leave Violations

New York City Workers Allowed To Sue For Sick Leave Violations

On March 20, the New York City Council enacted a provision allowing an individual to initiate a private legal action against employers for non-compliance with the Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA).


Individuals may now file lawsuits for alleged violations of the Act directly in court, bypassing the need to file an administrative complaint with the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. Legal action can be initiated within two years from the date the individual became aware or should have been aware of the alleged violation and may seek penalties, injunctive and declaratory relief, legal fees, costs, and other pertinent damages against the violating entity or individual.


Under the Act, the amount of safe and sick leave provided is contingent on the size of the employer.


  • Employers with 100 or more employees are required to provide up to 56 hours of paid leave annually.
  • Employers with 5 to 99 employees must offer up to 40 hours of paid leave annually.
  • Small employers with four or fewer employees and an annual net income exceeding $1 million are obligated to provide up to 40 hours of paid leave. In contrast, if the employer’s net income is less than $1 million, they are only required to offer up to 40 hours of unpaid leave annually.
  • Employers with one or more domestic workers must provide up to 40 hours of paid leave annually, with an increase to 56 hours for employers with 100 or more domestic workers.

Eligible employees are entitled to use accrued safe and sick leave immediately, including newly hired personnel. In cases of unforeseen leave, employers cannot mandate advance notice but can request documentation for absences exceeding three consecutive workdays. Employers must provide employees with written policy details regarding safe and sick leave, including information about accrued, utilized, and total leave balances, either on paystubs or via an accessible electronic system.

Significant amendments to the were implemented on October 15, 2023, to clarify the Act:

  • The assessment of an employer’s size is based on the total number of employees nationwide, determined by the peak number of concurrently employed staff within a calendar year.
  • Full time, part-time, joint employees, and employees on leave of absence are included in the employee count for determining employer size.
  • Employees telecommuting from outside New York City are not considered employed within the city.
  • Employees based outside of New York City that are “expected to regularly perform work in New York City during a calendar year” will be counted, but only for hours worked by the employee within New York City.

In light of these developments, it is imperative for New York City employers to thoroughly review their safe and sick leave policies to ensure full compliance and mitigate the risk of potential litigation.