The New York City Council has introduced a bill (T2015-2812) that seeks to establish an Office of Labor Standards (“Office”). The bill, which would amend the New York City Charter and the Administrative Code of the City of New York, provides for the creation of an Office either within the Executive Office of the Mayor or within a Department or Agency that would be headed by an appointed Director. Pursuant to the bill, the Director is charged with providing education, consultation and enforcement services. Specifically, the bill states that the Director shall:
- plan, make recommendations, conduct research, and develop programs for worker education, safety, and protection.
- facilitate the exchange and dissemination of information on these areas in consultation with public and private officials and organizations.
- provide educational materials to employers and develop programs to assist employers in complying with labor laws, including providing administrative support.
- implement public education campaigns to heighten awareness of employee rights under federal, state, and local law.
- collect and analyze available data on the city’s workforce and workplaces to identify gaps and prioritize areas for the improvement of working conditions for employees and conditions and practices within particular industries.
- recommend efforts to achieve workplace equity for women, communities of color, immigrants and refugees, and other vulnerable workers.
The bill also tasks the Director with enforcing City laws relating to paid sick leave and mass transit benefits, which are currently enforced by the Department of Consumer Affairs. The bill vests the Director with the power to commence actions by service of a notice of violation, investigate complaints, hold hearings, and render decisions and orders (including the ability to impose civil penalties and order equitable relief) for the violation of laws that he or she is empowered to enforce. The extent of the Director’s enforcement power, however, is unclear because the bill contains broad sweeping language suggesting that such power may extend beyond enforcing sick leave and mass transit benefits laws. Last, the bill would require the Director to post on an annual basis data related to the number of complaints filed against employers, the investigations conducted, and the enforcement actions taken by the Director.