Expanding Sick Leave Safety Net

Mayor Announces Program In Bushwick

Apparently making good on a campaign promise, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the expansion of paid sick leave during a press conference in Bushwick last Friday, Jan. 17.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the proposed expansion of paid sick leave at a press conference in Bushwick Friday, Jan. 17.

The new legislation—which was officially introduced in the City Council Wednesday, Jan. 22—builds off of a current law passed in 2013 and is expected to extend benefits to half a million more New Yorkers, according to the mayor.

“This is going to be one city, where everyone has a shot and rises together,” said de Blasio. “What we are putting forward today will fundamentally improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers—especially families struggling just to get by.”

De Blasio was joined by newly minted City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who pledged to guide the legislation through the council.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said she was confident that a bill to expand paid sick leave would clear council committee and a full vote in the chamber.

“We are going to make sure that no one is thrown into crisis and insecurity just because they get sick,” Mark-Viverito said.

Under current legislation, employers with large enough businesses must give workers five days (40 hours) of paid sick leave each year.

The proposed expansion would extend benefits to those working for companies that employ five or more individuals.

The bill will also accelerate the timeline for implementation. Previously, some smaller companies had until 2015 to comply, but the new bill would eliminate this phase-in period, compelling all employers to abide by the law by April.

The city’s Department of Consumer Affairs will enforce the law on a complaint-based system, meaning it will investigate complaints but not actively check up on businesses, de Blasio said. The new legislation will extend the statute of limitations for complaints from 270 days to three years, it was noted.

The announcement came outside of Esmerlda’s Restaurant on Myrtle Avenue in Bushwick.

Owner Esmerelda Valencia said the bill makes good business sense, claiming she has retained several hard-working employees thanks to good labor practices.

De Blasio and Mark-Viverito made the announcement surrounded by a panoply of local politicians. Public Advocate Letitia James joked the number of council members present constituted a quorum.

While some reporters asked whether the bill could pass council committee, Mark-Viverito maintained that the level of support evidenced by the number of council members in attendance indicated the bill would pass without too much trouble.

City Council members from the Times Newsweekly’s coverage area who were present included Antonio Reynoso, Raphael Espinal, Jimmy Van Bramer, Julissa Ferreras and Karen Koslowitz.

Also supporting the bill are City Council members Daniel Dromm and Elizabeth Crowley, as stated in a press release from Mark-Viverito.

De Blasio said that sick days are accrued, meaning workers must put in time before they can take advantage of sick leave protections. The current law and the expected bill will cover both part- and full-time workers, though part-timers will naturally accrue paid sick leave slower because they work fewer hours per week, it was noted.

The mayor and speaker said they believed the policy would not incentivize the hiring of only parttime workers.

Comptroller Scott Stringer said the legislation would not hurt business and stated the bill would actually improve the city’s economy as a whole.

Several business groups and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg have contended that paid sick leave will burden employers and prevent growth.

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