Paid sick leave extended to employees of small businesses in NYC

Calling it a historic day for New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio lauded the expansion of mandatory paid sick leave after a City Council hearing on Monday, noting, “Half a million more people will have paid sick leave when they need it. Half a million more families will be protected.”

The bill, passed by the Council 46 – 5 last month, will expand paid sick time coverage to businesses that employs five or more people. A previous version, voted in only after years of foot-dragging by former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, would have covered only people who work in companies of 15 or more employees.

The expanded bill was sponsored at the request of the de Blasio administration by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Its language harks back to the earlier version proposed by former Councilmember Gail Brewer (now Manhattan Borough President), the Mayor said.

De Blasio spoke about the tough choices people with no paid sick leave have had to make. “If they're sick, they have to go to work sick, probably get a lot sicker, probably get a lot of other people sick in the bargain. If they don't go to work, they're going to lose a day's pay.”

He noted that parents without paid sick leave were also apt to send a sick child to school. “That's not the New York City that I believe in. We can do better, and that's what this legislation is all about.”

The bill would give employees up to five paid sick days a year, and would ensure that workers cannot be fired for getting sick. In addition to extending the number of employees covered, the legislation allows paid sick leave time to be used to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. “By doing that we recognize that our families come in all shapes and sizes,” de Blasio said.

Some small-business organizations and Council Members had expressed concern last month that the paid leave would put a strain on small businesses. New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, while applauding the passage of the legislation, was cautious about the strain it would put on small businesses hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. She proposed a phase-in period for small businesses in parts of the city like the Rockaways, Howard Beach, Coney Island and the South Shore of Staten Island.

The amended bill would take effect April 1, but waives penalties for a violation by businesses under twenty employees for the first six months.

The Mayor said he looked forward to signing the bill into law later this week.

The bill’s co-sponsors include Council Members Chin, Cohen, Constantinides, Cornegy, Crowley, Cumbo, Dromm, Eugene, Ferreras, Johnson, Kallos, King, Koo, Koslowitz, Lancman, Lander, Levin, Levine, Mechaca, Miller, Reynoso, Richards, Rodriguez, Rose, Rosenthal, Torres, Van Bramer, Barron, Espinal, Gibson, Palma, Dickens, Maisel, Mendez, Williams, Vacca, Cabrera, and Garodnick.