The New York City Council has reached a compromise that will enable it to pass a paid sick leave law. Although Mayor Michael Bloomberg objects to the legislation, news outlets are virtually unanimous in predicting that the City Council has enough votes to override his veto. While federal law does not require employers to provide paid sick leave, some states (including New Jersey, Connecticut and California) and cities (including San Francisco, Seattle and Portland) have adopted paid sick leave laws. Other cities (including Philadelphia) are considering doing so. In New York City, even employers that already provide paid sick leave will have to take a close look at the new legislation and reconcile their current sick leave policies with the city’s mandates. For example, New York City’s proposed law includes anti-retaliation provisions that would prohibit employers from firing employees for using their paid sick leave. (In comparison, New Jersey’s paid sick leave law does not include an anti-retaliation provision.)
What employers are covered by the proposed law and when would it go into effect?
Under the proposed New York City law, as of April 1, 2014, companies with 20 or more employees would have to provide at least five paid sick days a year. The law would be extended to apply to companies with 15 or more employees as of October 1, 2015. Earlier versions of the legislation had required nine paid sick days, so five days was part of the compromise lawmakers reached in response to small business owners’ very vocal objections. The New York City law is not as expansive as some other city laws. For example, paid leave obligations in San Francisco, Seattle and Portland apply to companies with as few as five employees.
Notably, the New York City law will also require companies of any size to provide five days of sick leave as of April 1, 2014, but the time off may be unpaid.
What employees would be eligible?
To be eligible for paid leave, employees working within the borders of New York City would have to be employed for at least 4 months. The law applies to full-time and part-time workers, although seasonal workers and student interns would not be eligible.
Other details include that the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs would have enforcement authority and there is a safety net provision that would delay implementation of the law if New York City’s economy slows down.
Advocates of the legislation claim that the law will provide paid sick leave for one million workers. It is clear that this law will have a significant impact on small businesses. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that only 32% of small businesses (50 or less employees) currently offer paid sick leave, and an advocacy group, A Better Balance, reports that over 80% of restaurant workers and 60% of retail workers in New York City do not receive pay when they miss work due to sickness. As noted above, this law will also impact larger employers to the extent that they do not already provide five days of paid sick leave or only offer benefits to full-time employees or employees employed for longer than four months. And, as with any new law, it is important to track implementation to comply with notice requirements, both in terms of posting and adoption of compliant company policies prior to the April 2014 and October 2015 effective dates.