New York City to Expand Paid Sick Leave, De Blasio Says

More New York City businesses would be required to offer employees paid sick leave under legislation backed by the City Council speaker that will be one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first initiatives.

De Blasio, a 52-year-old Democrat, took office this month after making the issue part of his campaign pledge to combat income inequality in the most populous U.S. city. The measure may take effect as soon as April 1, de Blasio said today at a news briefing outside Esmeralda’s Restaurant in Brooklyn. The mayor was joined by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and more than 20 members of the 51-member legislative body.

“We talked a lot about the tale of two cities; our goal is to create one city, where everyone can rise together, and this is one of the steps we have to take to make that possible,” de Blasio said. “The time to act is now.”

The expansion of an existing sick-leave law to cover 500,000 more workers would amount to a show of force by the mayor and his ally, Mark-Viverito, who have vowed to put their self-described progressive values into action. They said a majority of council members supports the plan. De Blasio won election in November by 49 percentage points, the biggest margin by a non-incumbent in city history.

The new version broadens the law passed last year to include employers with five or more workers, down from the current threshold of 20. Employees working 30 or more hours a week would be eligible to earn earn as many as five days a year, which they could use to care for themselves or dependents. Connecticut, Seattle and San Francisco have similar policies.

Bloomberg Veto

City lawmakers last addressed the issue in June, overriding a veto by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent. That measure, which created the 20-worker cutoff, was a compromise between the council and then-Speaker Christine Quinn. De Blasio criticized the deal at the time, citing the workers it left out, and Quinn, for having blocked efforts to bring the proposal to a vote despite majority support.

Backers say the policies benefit businesses, the economy and public health by ensuring ill employees won’t be forced to work or be left jobless. They say it’s needed because of shortcomings in the 20-year-old federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which granted as much as 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to new parents and those who are sick or have ill dependents.

Restaurant Opposition

The federal law applies only to serious illness, not routine conditions such as colds and the flu. Also, about 40 percent of employees aren’t covered because they don’t work more than 25 hours a week or at businesses with 50 or more employees.

“You should not have to choose between your health and job,” Mark-Viverito said today.

Opponents include business groups such as the National Restaurant Association, the biggest industry trade association, which deem it too costly. When he vetoed last year’s legislation, Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, said it would hurt small businesses and stifle job creation.

Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, a business-backed group, said she supported de Blasio’s vision on the issue.

“The mayor has made it clear that he wants all working New Yorkers to have the ability to take time off for illness, which is a goal that our Partnership members share,” Wylde said in a statement. “Our hope is that these amendments to the current law will expand protection to more workers who need it, but avoid undue hardship on employers.”

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