This week, following similar examples in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Washington, D.C., and the State of Connecticut, the New York City Council overwhelmingly passed the Earned Sick Time Act by 45-3 vote. This bill will now go to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who publicly stated that he will veto it. However, given the margin by which the bill passed the Council, it is expected that the Council will override the Mayor’s veto by the required two-thirds majority and the bill will become law within the City of New York.
Under the Earned Sick Time Act, which initially would go into effect on April 1, 2014, private New York City employers with 20 or more employees would be required to provide their employees five paid sick days per year. On October 1, 2015, the threshold number of employees would decrease to 15. Employers with fewer than the threshold number of employees would still be required to provide their employees five sick days per year, but those days could be unpaid. Employees would be permitted to use sick time for their own medical care – physical or mental – or for that of a spouse, domestic partner, children, or parents.
The City’s Department of Consumer Affairs would be tasked with enforcing the law, and would have the authority to receive and investigate complaints and to assess fines and damages for violations of the proposed law. Additionally, employees would be required to exhaust administrative remedies before commencing a private cause of action in court.
Interestingly, even if the bill survives the Mayor’s veto, its effective date will remain conditional on economic indicators derived from a financial index set forth by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. We will continue to report on all aspects of the New York City Earned Sick Time Act. In the meantime, this is an important reminder to all employers, especially those in New York City, that local employment laws – including many already in effect – may impose more onerous requirements than those found in state or federal law.