In an early morning session on Thursday, the New York City Council voted to override a veto from Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) on paid sick days legislation. The bill, which now becomes law, requires any company with more than 15 employees to provide five days of paid leave a year and any company with fewer employees to offer five days of unpaid leave. This means that more than 1 million New York City workers will now have access to paid sick leave who didn’t have it before.
New York City joins four other cities — Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; Washington, DC; and Portland, Oregon — and the state of Connecticut in the group of places that have mandated paid sick days. However, New York’s legislation is not as strong as that in the other cities, which require companies with five or more employees to offer paid leave.
The city’s law will be implemented over a slow timeline, not taking effect until 2014 and only applying to companies with more than 20 employees for the first year and a half.
Despite initial concerns from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the objections raised by Mayor Bloomberg that the bill will put too large a cost burden on businesses, studies of laws in other places show either a neutral or positive effect. A recent audit of Washington, DC’s law found no negative impact on businesses, while a study of San Francisco found little negative impact and strong support among businesses and another of Connecticut found a small cost with big potential upsides. In fact, San Francisco’s law was found to have spurred job growth.
Even with these laws in place around the country, most workers don’t have access to paid leave. Forty percent of private workers and 80 percent of low-income workers can’t take a paid day off if they or their family members get sick.
Meanwhile, a rash of preemption bills, which bar cities and localities from enacting paid sick days legislation, have also been implemented across the country, the latest of which was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott (R). They have also cropped up in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mississippi. These bills have been sponsored by big businesses and local chambers of commerce and are part of a national effort backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing group that coordinates conservative laws across states.