The basics of workplace benefits in New York

New York employees may have questions about the types of benefits they are entitled to receive in the workplace under the law. Below is a summary of the rules surrounding some of the most common benefits.

Medical Insurance

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, companies employing 50 or more employees are required to offer health insurance benefits. The employer may require that the employee pay a portion of the insurance premium, provided the employee’s share is not more than 9.5% of his or her household income. The insurance plan must also cover 60% of the costs incurred under the plan.

Holidays, vacation or personal time

New York law does not require that an employer pay for holidays, vacation and/or personal time. However, there is an exception to this rule if an employer has a written policy to pay for these benefits. In such cases, the law requires the employer to honor the terms of their policy.

In the absence of an explicit written policy providing for these benefits, an aggrieved employee may be able to rely on an oral policy (or past practice) to establish entitlement to these benefits. Upon termination (whether voluntary or involuntary), an employee is entitled to compensation for accrued but unused vacation and personal time, unless the employer has a written forfeit policy explicitly stating that such time will not be paid upon termination.

Sick Time

Under New York City’s Earned Sick Time Act, most employees working in New York City (whether full-time or part-time) for more than 80 hours per year are entitled to take up to 40 hours of paid sick time each year to care for themselves or a family member, assuming that they work for an employer with five or more employees. Employees who work for employers that employ less than five individuals are still entitled to 40 hours of sick leave but the leave is unpaid. If the employer already has a policy allowing its employees to take paid sick time, the policy must meet or exceed the leave allotment provided under this law. In addition to requiring sick time, the law protects employees that exercise their rights under this law from retaliation by their employers (i.e. being fired or disciplined).


Meal breaks are mandatory in New York State, but are not counted as “hours worked;” therefore, employees are not required to pay for such time. Employers must provide meal breaks as follows:

· Factory Workers: 60-minute lunch break between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and a 60-minute meal break at the time midway between the beginning and end of the shift for all shifts of more than six hours starting between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

· Non-Factory Workers: 30-minute lunch break between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for shifts six hours or longer that extend over that period and a 45-minute meal break at the time midway between the beginning and end of the shift for all shifts of more than six hours starting between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

· All Workers: an additional 20-minute meal break between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. for workdays that extend from before 11:00 a.m. to after 7:00 p.m.

The Labor Commissioner may permit shorter meal periods upon application by the employer, if the Commissioner believes such modifications are warranted by special circumstances.

For more information about these benefits and other benefits in the workplace, contact the employment law attorneys at Serrins Fisher, LLP. Our experienced attorneys can explain your rights and ensure they are protected.

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