Beginning in slightly less than one year, New York City is expected to join San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle in requiring its employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. The New York Council has reached an agreement with area labor organizations that will provide both full-time and part-time employees with up to five days of annual paid sick leave.
Effective April 1, 2014, employers with at least 20 employees will be required to provide five paid sick days – rather than the nine initially proposed by the Council – to all individuals who have been in the company’s employ for at least four months. The proposed legislation will then expand in October 2015 to employers with between 15 and 20 employees. Those employers who do not meet the minimum employee threshold will not escape unscathed: they will instead be required to provide employees with five days of unpaid sick leave annually.
As a slight consolation prize for employers, allegedly aggrieved employees will be required to first exhaust all administrative remedies before commencing a private action in court. Unlike prior versions of the bill, employees will be forced to seek relief from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, which is tasked with enforcement of the bill, before contemplating any judicial action. Despite this safety net, the proposed legislation does contain broad anti-retaliation provisions prohibiting an employer from firing or taking any other adverse action against employees who exercise their right to paid sick leave. Although it must still vote on the legislation, it is considered to be a foregone conclusion that the Council will overwhelmingly pass the bill and, if necessary, override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anticipated veto.
How Does This Affect My Company? The proposed legislation is likely to have two profound effects on employers. First and foremost, the bill will by its very nature increase costs for all of the city’s employers, most significantly impacting small- to medium-size businesses, many of which do not currently provide paid sick leave. And second, regardless of size, the bill will force all employers to review their sick leave policies in order to ensure compliance with the new law. Even those companies that already provide paid sick leave should conduct a comprehensive review to ensure that their policies meet the Council’s lofty standards. Although the law will not go into effect until April 2014, employers are encouraged to work with counsel now to develop and implement a plan for compliance with New York City’s new paid sick leave law.