Paid Sick Leave Passed, So Here’s What You Should Know


It’s been a long time coming. After three years, New York City Council has finally passed veto-proof legislation guaranteeing paid sick days in businesses with more than 20 employees. Now (hopefully), restaurant workers afraid of losing their jobs won’t come to work hacking up pathogens into soup. But there’s fine print, and conditions. Here’s what you, New York City citizen, should know.

How many days am I allowed to be sick without losing my job in a tenuous economy?

You’ve got five days, or 40 hours, so don’t get mono.

I’m a sandwich artist at Subway, but there are only two other employees here. Does that mean the “20 or more employees” rule doesn’t apply to me?

The rule DOES apply to you, bub. Employees of franchises within New York City are added together. So if there are roughly 400 Subways in the city, you work for a franchise that has hundreds of sandwich artists.

Nice. So when’s the soonest my immune system can fail me?

April 1, 2014, after you’ve worked four months, and if the economy doesn’t implode.

Wait, what?

The paid sick days legislation includes something called a “reverse trigger.” No, it’s not that thing that happens when you throw up in your mouth and swallow it a little. Basically, if by December 2013 the Independent Budget Office finds that the New York City Coincident Economic Index–a statistic that shows the current state of the economy–is below what it was in January 2012, implementing sick days gets pushed off for another year. Odds are that won’t happen.

What about businesses with 15 employees or more? What about domestic workers? Why don’t they get paid sick days?

They will, eventually. The start date comes a bit later–October 1, 2015.

Is it going to be that way forever? I work for a small artisanal pickling operation, but I’d like sick days too.

Well, in 2016, the Independent Budget Office will take another look at how the rule is affecting the collective economic wellbeing. Advocates hope that at this point the IBO will reduce the small business carve-out. San Francisco, for example, doesn’t have any small business carve-out, and they’re doing just dandy–in 2011, a report put out by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research examining the effects of the San Francisco law found that employer profitability did not suffer, that two-thirds of employers were supportive of the rule, and that employees didn’t even take full advantage of the five or nine days they had off. One quarter of employees didn’t use any sick days whatsoever, and the average worker only used up three.

Aren’t they working on a federal version of this, too?

Yes. In March, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave.

If council members introduced this in 2010, why did it take so long?

Bloomberg hated it, and Council Speaker Christine Quinn put off letting it come to the floor for a vote. Paid sick day legislation has also been spectacularly unpopular with the restaurant industry and Big Food, which bears considerable influence on City Hall. Last year, the New York Times published a story on the friendship between Quinn and Emily Giske, a lobbyist for Bolton-St.Johns, which, among other things, represents Yum Brands, the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. According to the Times, however, a Bolton-St.Johns lobbyist spoke to council members about paid sick leave, but not Quinn.

So Quinn came around?

Well, she had previously commended the paid sick leave as “laudable,” but held off on putting it on the agenda. Next to other Democrats who were adamant about passing the legislation, Quinn, who’s running for mayor, didn’t look so good. The same day as lawmakers held a public hearing on paid sick leave, council members considered forcing the issue onto the floor.

In the end, this is pretty good, right?

“The New York City paid sick days bill will cover 1 million workers, which is more covered than every other paid sick days law combined,” said Working Families Party spokesman Joe Dinkin, comparing New York City’s legislation to that of Washington DC, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Connecticut. And it passed, 45-3, so it’ll survive Bloomberg’s veto power. Yeah, we’d say this is a pretty big deal.