New York City workers can begin using their paid sick leave today, as part of a measure originally passed by the city council in 2013 over the veto threats of former mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The new law got extra attention earlier this year when it was expanded, as one of the first bills signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, to cover a much broader swath of businesses. As passed under Bloomberg, the law only covered businesses with 20 or more employees. The new version applies to businesses with five or more employees and also includes the manufacturing sector, some portions of which had been exempted under the old language.
Employees accrue one hour of paid leave for every 15 hours on the job, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year. The formula for accounting for the hours caused some hand wringing among the city’s businesses that worried that it might create difficult bookkeeping requirements.
New York City wasn’t the first jurisdiction to experiment with paid sick leave; Connecticut’s version went into effect in 2012, and the city of San Francisco put their rendition of the law in place back in 2007.
It remains to be seen how the new law will affect employees and their employers, but the best evidence suggests the effects won’t be that profound either way. A study of the San Francisco ordinance, carried out by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which generally supports the laws, didn’t uncover mass absenteeism, and most employers — nearly two thirds — said the law hadn’t meaningfully impacted profitability. Only a small percentage of employees with access to paid sick leave used the maximum in a given year, and nearly 25 percent used none at all. Studies of the Connecticut law funded by the Employment Policies Institute, a generally pro-business organization, found similarly underwhelming results.
One of the problems the studies did uncover was a lack of awareness about the law, among both employers and employees. But in New York, the city is doing what it says is a major outreach campaign. Subway ads have already gone up, and TV, radio and internet ads are going to be running too, an attempt to make sure employers and employees know their rights and responsibilities.
An opinion piece in Forbes earlier this year predicted that millions of malingering New Yorkers would destroy the economy with their fake illnesses. (It was also written by an attorney who specializes in defending employers from labor violation suits, something not immediately apparent from the article itself, but that’s another story.) But I guess we’ll find out.
How are you feeling today?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 30, 2014