Summer in the city might actually feel a lot cooler this year, thanks to a new law that gives workers in the City of New York more flexibility in their work schedules. Specifically, a new law that takes effect on July 18, 2018, will permit workers to make temporary work schedule changes to accommodate qualifying personal events.

The ruling, passed in January of this year, is a victory in that it allows a worker to ask his or her employer for a more flexible or predictable work schedule to accommodate the employee.

The worker needs to have been employed for at least 120 days, and work at least 80 hours in New York City within a calendar year in order to be permitted to make two temporary schedule changes annually for personal events.

What exactly is a ‘temporary change’?

According to the law, a temporary change is defined as a “limited alteration” to an employee’s work hours, times or locations. This includes, but is not limited to, using paid time off, working remotely, swapping or shifting work hours, and using short-term unpaid leave.

How about a ‘personal event’?

According to the law, this is defined as:

  • The need for a caregiver to provide care to a minor child or care recipient;
  • An employee’s need to attend a legal proceeding or hearing for subsistence benefits to which
    the employee, a family member, or the employee’s care recipient is a party; or
  • Any circumstance that would constitute a basis for permissible use of safe time or sick time.

The new law is a two-way street, with responsibilities on both workers as well as their employers. Now employees are required to notify their employer as soon as they are aware of their need for a schedule change; they also need to specify that it’s for a personal event. While the law doesn’t require that the initial request be submitted in writing, employees need to submit the request in writing as soon as they are able to do so — but no later than the second business day after the employee returns to work. If the employee does not fulfill this obligation, the company is not obligated to respond to the request in writing.

The employer’s commitment

Employers are required to respond to a worker’s request immediately. While the response does not have to be in writing, once the worker submits the required written request upon his or her return to work, the employer must provide a written response within 14 days. The company’s written response needs to include these items:

  • Whether the employer agrees to the temporary schedule change as requested by the worker
    or if the temporary change will be approved as leave without pay;
  • An explanation for denial of a temporary work schedule change; and
  • The number of requests and business days the worker has left in the calendar year based on
    the employer’s decision in a written response.

The only way a schedule change request can be denied is if the worker has already exhausted the two allotted requests in the calendar year, or if an exemption applies.

The new temporary work schedule change law is not applicable to the following employees:

  • Those covered by collective bargaining agreements if the agreement waives provisions of the
    bill and addresses temporary changes to work schedules;
  • Those who have been employed by the employer for less than 120 days;
  • Those who work fewer than 80 hours in New York City within a calendar year; and
  • Those working for an employer whose primary business Is in the entertainment industry.

How does this new law interact with the Earned Sick and Safe Time Law?

The temporary work schedule change law does not require that workers use leave accrued under the city’s Earned Sick and Safe Time (EST) Law before requesting a schedule change. In addition, any unpaid leave granted to an employee for a personal event as defined under the temporary work schedule law does not count toward employer obligations under the EST; any leave granted under the EST does not count toward employer obligations under the temporary work schedule law.

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