There is no New York state law requiring private employers to provide employees sick leave, paid or unpaid, although many employers do grant it as an important employee benefit. It is important to remember, however, that if sick leave is promised, an employer may have a legal obligation to grant it. Under New York law, health and welfare benefits are part of “wages.” An employer that promises to pay for sick leave and does not may face a stiff fine (NY Lab. Law Ch. 31 Art. 6 Sec. 198-c). Employers that do have sick leave policies are required to notify their employees of the policy in writing or by publicly posting the policy (NY Lab. Law Ch. 31 Art. 6 Sec. 195).
In addition, some courts have held that under certain circumstances, policies published in employee handbooks may constitute implied contracts that are binding and enforceable. Thus, employers should regularly review policy statements made in handbooks or elsewhere to ensure that they accurately reflect current policies. If not, they should be changed, and employees should be notified of the changes.
New York City has passed a paid sick leave ordinance that will begin to take effect in April 2014. See the discussion on the City's earned sick leave law, below.