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Legislative Memo

BILL:

S.4473 (Spano) A.7405 (Nolan)

Support

SUBJECT:

Allows Disability Benefits for Non-Disabled Persons and other Time Off

 

DATE:

May 7, 2001

 

The Business Council of New York State, whose membership includes over 4,000 member firms as well as hundreds of chambers of commerce and professional trade associations, has reviewed the above mentioned legislation and opposes its enactment.

This legislation would amend New York State's Workers' Compensation Law and permit non-disabled persons on leave to receive disability benefits, mandate up to ten days of school visit leave for employers of ten or more employees, mandate bereavement leave for employers of ten or more employees, authorize up to seven full or partial days of paid disability leave for situations not covered under the federal family and medical leave act, and eliminate the seven day waiting period for receiving disability benefits.

The Business Council opposes this legislation for the following reasons:

  1. New York State is one of only six states in the country with a program requiring partial income replacement benefits for employees out of work due to injuries or illnesses not related to work. This bill takes the six decade long compact of providing partial income replacement benefits to workers ill or injured and unable to work and stands it on its head. Providing benefits to workers who are able to work but are on a voluntary leave from work for personal reasons is a disservice to those in real need of the benefits, is unnecessary, and is an unjustified incursion by the government into private, voluntary issues of paid time off between an employer and its employees or its unions.

    Providing for broader use of disability benefits beyond their original intention will increase actual use of the benefit and, as a simple economic issue, increase costs for everyone's disability insurance. This additional cost will be recouped from either increasing the cost of the goods or services provided by the employer to its customers or by reducing the level of existing or anticipated employee fringe benefits. Unfortunately, this issue of paying for this mandate is not directly addressed or even mentioned in either the proposed legislation or its justification.

  2. Regarding the mandating of school visit leave, bereavement leave and family emergency and medical care leave, there is a much simpler way, besides intrusive government mandates, to deal with the majority of these legitimate time-off needs. At the federal level, there has been a move toward the allowing of compensatory time for employees who work overtime and would like the choice of additional paid time off instead of the current required payment of overtime. Employees constantly request this option from their employers but the federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not permit it for private sector employers. This approach would provide more choices to employees to satisfy their particular time-off requirements and leave the government out of an area where they do not belong. Supporters of this bill should urge the New York State Congressional Delegation to support amending the FLSA and permitting compensatory time-off.

  3. This bill would also eliminate the seven day waiting period for receiving disability benefits, which has been part of the program for fifty years, and allow the receipt of benefits beginning with the first day of disability. Aside from the obvious avalanche of additional administrative record keeping, this provision would remove a key provision which has recognized that an occasional absence due to illness or injury does not measure up to the definition of a disability, the core reason for creation of the program years ago. It ignores the foundations of the disability program and turns it into another government entitlement, a simple paid time-off program.

For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation and respectfully urges the Senate Labor Committee not to report it.