All employers are familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act, in large part because of the Family and Medical Leave, or FMLA, poster that they most keep in every one of their work sites. But they are also familiar with it because probably many of your employees use the Family and Medical Leave Act to take time off from work to care for a newborn baby, or to care for a sick loved one in their family. Then again, they themselves might be sick, and need the Family and Medical Leave Act to be able to take time off to care for themselves. The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles them to up to six weeks of time off, unpaid, for some of the very same reasons mentioned above.
But the federal government does not have any labor law that entitles workers in this country to get any sort of paid time off for family, personal, or even vacation reasons. We have covered this issue a lot lately, because there are movements in many of the states to create laws that allow for paid time off for family or personal reasons. There is even that federal grass roots movement we talked about earlier that is pushing for Congress in Washington DC to pass mandatory minimum paid time off for vacations.
One such movement right now is occurring in New York state, and it may be happening right under your noses, employers. That is because it is not happening as a big debate in the legislature, just yet. Instead, the governor of the state, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, has offered up his own legislation that would allow employees in the state to take paid time off for personal and medical reasons.
For instance, they could use the time off to take a loved on to get a physical, or to get mental health care, or even to get spiritual health care. The bill would allow such time off to be taken for spouses and all so called domestic partners. The bill could even be applied for grandchildren, and as always, for new parents in order to have time with their newborn or newly adopted child. Doctors could be traditional physician types, as well as dentists, chiropractors, foot doctors, religious healers, and psychologists.
Under the law, the level of benefits would work this way: employees could get as much as $170 per week for as much as 12 weeks off for family and or medical reasons. The funding would come through the workers’ comp system, and in fact, the new family and medical leave program would be a part of the overall state workers’ comp system.
This would work, according to my sources who quote officials from the Spitzer camp, because employees would be indirectly but entirely funding their own benefits. That is through an additional 45 cents per week deduction that employers would be able to take out of their employees’ pay checks to cover the costs of the family leave benefits. At the moment, employers can take out 60 cents deduction for workers’ comp.
This bill comes after Gov. Spitzer proposed and got passed new reforms to the New York workers’ comp system, bringing higher benefits to injured employees and lower costs to employers. That is just what is at risk, say critics of this latest proposal. According to my sources, opposition to the family and medical leave plan say that it could threaten all of the savings brought in by the workers’ comp reform, and that it could cause workers’ comp insurance companies to raise rates.
Nevertheless, the legislature and Gov. Spitzer and fine-tuning a final agreement on this bill. If passed, it would affect nearly all private employers and about half of all employers in the public sphere.
Did you know that the Federal law assures American citizens of their right to vote? It’s pretty interesting and unique to note that many states have laws that dictate how an employee can take time off during an election; New York is one of those states. In fact, voting is so important that New York companies who bar a worker from voting could lose their corporate charter.
I noticed that the time off for voting varies widely from one state to the next. It is interesting to look at the differences, but here we’ll concern ourselves with New York. The time off allowed for voting in New York is up to two hours of paid leave. The exception to that is if the employee has four consecutive hours outside of work when the polls are open; then he or she does not have to be paid. If it takes more than two hours to vote, the employer does not have to pay for the extra time. The employee is required to give notice of his or her plans to vote at least two days but not more than ten days in advance.
Like 19 other states I found, New York allows the employer to specify which time of day an employee can take time off to vote—so they can request that employees vote either at the beginning or the end of the work day. It seems that the best case scenario would be for the employer and employee to work together to plan a time that works best for all involved.
Employers must post notices in a conspicuous place inside the work area telling employees what their requirements are for complying with New York’s Time Off to Vote Law. These notices must be posted at least ten working days in advance of every election. The New York Complete Labor Law poster is available reflecting this notice.