New York's Paid Family Leave Benefits Law Takes Effect Soon

New York State’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (“PFLBL”) takes effect January 1, 2018. Although some companies have been preparing for this employment law development for some time, every employer with at least one employee should review the PFLBL's basics.

Job-protected, paid family leave (“PFL”) benefits will increase in four phases. Employees will be entitled to a number of paid weeks off at increasing percentages of the lesser of their average weekly pay or New York State’s average weekly wage as follows:

·      January 1, 2018: Eight weeks; lesser of 50% or 50%;
·      January 1, 2019: 10 weeks; lesser of 55% or 55%;
·      January 1, 2020: 12 weeks; lesser of 60% or 60%;
·      January 1, 2021: 12 weeks; lesser of 67% or 67%.

The PFLBL supplements, and does not replace, the the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Employees at companies with 50 employees or more who have worked for a year or more may take more than 12 weeks. An employer need not pay that employee for such additional time under the PFLBL. Employees remain free to use paid time off, if it is available, rather than PFLBL leave, if they so choose.

If a full-time employee has worked for at least 26 consecutive weeks, or if a part-time employee has worked for at least 175 days, that employee may take PFLBL leave related to:

·      care for family members with serious health conditions;
·      bonding with a new-born child during the baby’s first year;
·      adoption or foster care placement; and
·      certain exigencies related to a family member’s military service.

The PFLBL does not provide for paid time off for an employee’s own medical condition. New York’s short-term disability scheme covers those situations.

Employers may begin collecting weekly employee contributions beginning July 1, 2017. Employees may not opt out. Employers should consult with their disability insurance carriers, review paid time off policies with their employees, post all necessary legal notices, and, as always, consult with legal counsel experienced in this area to prepare themselves for these changes.

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Kevin Burke

Kevin Burke is a partner in the Litigation, Labor & Employment Practice Group at Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP. EDUCATION: J.D., George Washington University Law School Georgetown University - B.A., magna cum laude Nichols High School School (Buffalo, New York) EMPLOYMENT: Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP - A partner in the Litigation Practice Group INTERESTS: Member, Nichols School Alumni Board Past Board Member and Officer, Western New York Trial Lawyers Association Bennett High School's Law Magnet Program Bar Association of Erie County Annual Mock Trial Tournament Attorney Coach Past Member, Kiwanis Club of Buffalo Past Member, Child & Family Services Annual Fund Board Leadership Buffalo Graduate, Class of 2006