NYC Paid Sick Leave Passes Council by Veto-Proof Majority

The New York City Council voted to require employers with 20 or more workers to provide paid sick days, a measure Mayor Michael Bloomberg has promised to veto.

The 45-3 vote yesterday was more than the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. The step, set to take effect April 1, 2014, will expand its reach to businesses with 15 or more employees a year later. It will also require all employers in the city to provide unpaid sick leave starting in 2014.

There are about 1 million New Yorkers who don’t get paid time off for illness and would become eligible for the benefit by 2015. Similar measures have won approval in Portland, Oregon, San Francisco and Seattle, while others are pending in Massachusetts and Vermont.

“People who are sick or who need to care for a loved one should be able to take time off without the fear of losing their job or not having money to pay the bills,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn said at a news briefing before the vote.

Quinn had blocked a sick-leave measure for three years that would have covered an additional 300,000 workers at businesses with five or more employees, citing concern about its impact on small companies while the city’s jobless rate remained above 9 percent. The speaker, one of five Democrats seeking her party’s mayoral nomination, relented after brokering a compromise that led to the bill passing yesterday.

‘Short-Sighted’

The mayor, an independent, described the law as “short-sighted economic policy” in a March 29 statement in which he pledged to veto it. His position hasn’t changed since then, said Julie Wood, a spokeswoman.

Kathryn Wylde, chief executive officer of the Partnership for New York City, a civic association of corporate leaders who joined Quinn in opposing the original bill, said her group reluctantly backed the compromise because “we want them to pass the bill that’s least damaging.”

Most of the companies represented in Wylde’s group already provide paid sick leave and wouldn’t be affected by the law, she said by e-mail yesterday. Yet they continue to view the council action as “an intervention by government in employer-employee relationships that contributes to the high-cost regulatory environment that discourages job creation here,” she said.

Carlo Scissura, president and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, also supported the legislation after opposing the initial version, calling it “a good compromise” that wouldn’t hurt “mom-and-pop stores with less than 20 employees that could not otherwise afford to compensate their employees with sick pay.”

Four Months

Under the measure that passed, employees would need to work at least four months before earning paid time off, including part-timers. Work-study students and seasonal employees would be excluded. The Consumer Affairs Department would enforce the law.

Supporters for paid sick time have based their advocacy on the fact that the 20-year-old U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act doesn’t cover about 40 percent of workers. The federal law, which grants as much as 12 weeks of job-protected time off, applies only to those working more than 25 hours a week and employers with 50 or more employees.

The U.S. law also doesn’t enable recovery of lost wages and applies only to serious illness, not routine conditions such as colds and flu. Proponents have been fighting to expand the law, concentrating their efforts at the state and local level.

New York City’s mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Goldman in New York at hgoldman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephen Merelman at smerelman@bloomberg.net

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