For Immediate Release
NEW YORK, NY – Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Peter A. Hatch today announced settlement agreements for two domestic workers to resolve violations of the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law. The domestic workers, who were employed to care for elderly patients with long-term illnesses, were both denied sick leave and one was illegally fired for using sick leave and retaliated against for filing a complaint with DCWP.
“Domestic workers provide vital support to us and often our loved ones,” said DCWP Commissioner Peter A. Hatch. “Sadly, these invaluable workers often face exploitative working conditions and abuses. We are committed to ensuring these workers are treated fairly and will hold anyone—including private households— accountable if they violate their workers’ rights or punish them for exercising their rights. I want to remind New Yorkers, if you hire a paid care worker, you are an employer in eyes of the law.”
“I was very concerned about my health when I contracted COVID-19 and had to continue working in such a condition, especially during the pandemic when it’s important to be safe. It was difficult being abruptly and wrongfully fired for trying to seek help from a doctor,” said Antonio, one of the domestic workers. “DCWP has helped me understand my rights to sick leave as a paid care worker under the law. I am proud to have been able to receive justice.”
“I wasn’t able to receive sick leave and take care of myself, even though I spent time taking care of others who were sick,” said Dwight, another one of the domestic workers. “It is important that paid care workers like me know that Paid Safe and Sick Leave exists, so we aren’t taken advantage of repeatedly.”
In both cases, the domestic workers were not provided paid safe and sick leave as required under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law. The employers also did not have policies in place or provide their employees with the required Notice of Employee Rights. In one of the cases, the domestic worker had COVID-19 but was still denied sick leave and forced to stay in the home and continue working. He was then fired when he took leave for a doctor’s appointment and, as a result, became homeless. The employer also retaliated against him with harassing phone calls when he filed a complaint with DCWP. The settlement with this domestic worker’s employer, requires the family to pay $18,000 in restitution and $1,000 in civil penalties. In the other case, the domestic worker will be paid $4,100 in restitution.
Under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees and employers of domestic workers in New York City must provide paid safe and sick leave to employees. Employers with fewer than five employees and a net income of $1 million or more, employers with between five and 99 employees, and employers with one or more domestic workers must provide 40 hours of paid leave. Employers with 100 or more employees must provide up to 56 hours of paid leave. Employers with fewer than five employees and a net income of less than $1 million must provide unpaid safe and sick leave. Safe and sick leave is accrued at a rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked and begins on the employee’s first day of employment. Employers of five or more employees who do not front-load safe and sick leave on the first day of a new calendar year must allow employees to carry over up to 40 or 56 hours of unused safe and sick leave from one calendar year to the new calendar year, depending on the size of the employer. The Law was also recently expanded to provide covered employees with an extra four hours of paid leave per child under the age of 18, per COVID-19 vaccine injection. Under the City’s Temporary Schedule Change Law, private employees can request up to two days of unpaid leave.
If the need to use leave is foreseeable, employers can require up to seven days advance notice to use accrued leave. If the need is unforeseeable, employers may require notice as soon as practicable. Employers can require documentation for more than three consecutive workdays of leave, but it is illegal to require that documentation specify the reason for using it. Employers may not engage in or threaten retaliation against employees, which includes firing and any act that punishes an employee for or is likely to deter an employee from exercising their rights under the Law.
DCWP’s COVID and Paid Sick Leave provides an overview of all sick leave. Employers and employees can also visit nyc.gov/workers or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information about the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, including the required new Notice of Employee of Rights, which is available in 26 languages, one-page overviews for employers and employees, and the complaint form.
DCWP’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards is committed to raising job standards for paid care workers, including home health aides and domestic workers. The Office of Labor Policy & Standards oversees its Paid Care Division, a dedicated resource for workplace questions and complaints for paid care workers. As part of its work, DCWP recently settled its largest paid safe and sick leave investigation to date, which was part of the agency’s major proactive enforcement initiative to examine the home health care industry’s compliance with the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, wage and hour requirements, and other workplace standards. In total, since the Law went into effect, DCWP has received more than 2,500 complaints about Paid Safe and Sick Leave and secured more than $16 million in fines and restitution for almost 45,000 workers.
DCWP’s cases were handled by Paid Care Advocate Amalia Torrentes, Staff Counsel John De Vito, Senior Enforcement Counsel Emily Hoffman, and Director of Litigation Claudia Henriquez of DCWP ’s Office of Labor Policy & Standards, which is led by Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Holt.
“Domestic workers are among the most essential workers in our city; they care for our aging parents, our young kids, and some of the most vulnerable members of our community. And yet these vital workers are often highly vulnerable themselves - they may lack information about their basic legal rights or fear retribution if they seek to exercise those rights, including the right to paid safe and sick leave, which is critical in the middle of a pandemic,” said Senator Liz Krueger. “I’m glad that DCWP has championed the cases of these two workers, and I hope it sends a clear message to workers and employers alike that the legal rights of workers, including paid leave, must be respected.”
“For employers to flout our paid sick leave laws is unacceptable at any time—during a pandemic, it’s completely outrageous. Domestic workers do the essential and compassionate work of caring for the elderly and people with disabilities,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein. “When their bosses break sick leave laws, they put workers at risk, their patients, and all vulnerable members of our society for whom a COVID infection could be fatal or severely debilitating. I applaud DCWP for taking action on behalf of these workers and I hope this action sends a message all employers: if you break the law, you will face the consequences.”
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 59,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Abigail Lootens | Carmel Agnant
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection