NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio and millions of New Yorkers across the five boroughs celebrate the second anniversary of the City’s expanded Paid Sick Leave Law, which created the legal right to sick leave for 3.4 million private and nonprofit sector workers, nearly 1.2 million of whom did not previously have access to this vital workplace benefit. These employees can now take sick leave without fear of losing pay or their job, and nearly 9,600 employees have received restitution through the City’s enforcement of the Law.
“No parent should have to choose between a paycheck and caring for a sick child, and thanks to this law they don’t have to,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Two years ago today, a million New Yorkers in households across the five boroughs grew more secure, families were enabled to provide greater support to one another, and employers presided over a stronger workforce. Today, wages and employment are up, and our economy is stronger than ever. I thank the Department of Consumer Affairs for their extraordinary work supporting employees and business owners, and putting money back in the pockets of working New Yorkers,” Mayor de Blasio said.
“Forcing someone to work when they’re sick, or preventing someone from taking care of a loved one who is suffering, is bad for workers, families and employers. Denying the basic right of sick days makes the lives of those already struggling even harder. No one should have to choose between recovering from an illness or holding on to a job,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “That’s not how we treat one another in New York City. I’m proud that a million New Yorkers no longer face those kinds of disgraceful ultimatums. Laws like Paid Sick Leave are chipping away at inequality and strengthening our city.”
On April 1, 2014, the expanded version of the law signed by Mayor de Blasio went into effect, which added manufacturing workers, who had previously been exempted, as well as expanded the definition of covered family members to include grandparents, grandchildren and siblings. This amendment brought in an additional 500,000 workers, with a total of one million New Yorkers covered under the Law.
Since then, the Paid Sick Leave Law has helped nearly 9,600 employees receive restitution and ensured that thousands more are receiving sick leave as required by the law, while at the same time, the city's unemployment rate has continued to decline and the city has added more than 250,000 private sector jobs.
Fears of the law driving down wages or driving up costs have not come to pass. Wages in New York City industries most affected by the law – like retail, accommodation and food services – have grown faster or remained on par when compared to New York State, while inflation and the costs of eating out have risen more slowly than the national average. The law also does not appear to have negatively affected businesses; startups and small businesses have grown more quickly in New York City than the state as a whole, and the costs to businesses of hiring an additional employee have grown more slowly in NYC than the U.S. or the Northeast average.
“Since the beginning, DCA’s goal with the implementation and enforcement of paid sick leave was rooted in ensuring that both employers and employees knew about their rights and responsibilities under the law,” said Department of Consumer Affairs First Deputy Commissioner Alba Pico. “Those initial education efforts ensured that the law was smoothly implemented so that New Yorkers could care for themselves and loved ones when needed, while not sacrificing the vitality of our city’s small businesses.”
New York City’s extensive, multi-phased education campaign reached more than six million New Yorkers in 26 languages, through extensive advertisements in subways, buses, and local and foreign-language print media, radio, and on television. DCA also participated in approximately 1,100 events where staff distributed more than 2 million brochures about paid sick leave. DCA has now closed approximately 700 paid sick leave cases, securing more than $1.7 million in paid sick leave fines and restitution. Additionally, through settlement agreements, DCA has ensured thousands more – many of whom are in low-wage professions such as security guards, home health aides, restaurant workers, and retail workers – are receiving sick leave as required by the law.
With the passage of New York City’s expanded Paid Sick Leave Law in 2014, the City of New York became the seventh jurisdiction in the country to enact a paid sick leave law. Following the passage of New York City’s law, momentum has continued to grow and now, more than two dozen additional jurisdictions have enacted laws giving workers access to paid sick leave. In October 2015, DCA held a national “Paid Sick Leave Symposium” in partnership with the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) to address the importance of paid sick leave laws, the challenges and best initiatives to implement these laws, and framed the paid sick leave movement from a national perspective. Leaders from 16 jurisdictions across the country attended the event and participated in discussions with keynote speakers, panel discussions, and practitioner workshops.
DCA continues to lead the nation on advocacy around the importance of paid sick leave. Recently, at the request and in support of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, the City of New York is serving as the lead amicus in the briefing on behalf of other jurisdictions with paid sick leave laws in a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit brought by construction industry employer groups who argue that the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Law is preempted by the federal Labor Management Relations Act. DCA’s brief underscores that paid sick leave laws are critical to maintaining public health and promoting economic security, coexist harmoniously with collective bargaining and a strong unionized workforce, and New York City’s and other jurisdiction’s experience enforcing paid sick leave laws establishes that enforcement does not require the kind of interpretation that may trigger preemption under the Labor Management Relations Act.
Under the NYC Paid Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees who are hired to work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid sick leave. Employees with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Accrual began April 1, 2014, or an employee’s first day of employment, whichever came later, and employees could begin using accrued leave 120 days after they began accruing leave. On the first day of employment, employers must provide the Notice of Employee Rights in English and, if available on the DCA website, their primary language. Domestic workers who have worked for their employer for more than one year must be provided two days of paid sick leave, which is in addition to the three days of paid rest under the New York State Labor Law.
Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/PaidSickLeave or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information, including upcoming events, the required Notice of Employee Rights, one-page overviews for employers and employees, FAQs, DCA’s paid sick leave training presentation, and the complaint form. DCA has also developed tools to help employers keep track of employees’ hours worked and sick leave used as well as model forms for verification of authorized sick time used, intention to use sick time and request to make up missed work as an alternative to using sick time.