The Business Council opposes adoption of S.5806, as it would impose new cost mandates on private sector employers, as well as impose new cost burdens on state and local governments that will be borne by the business and resident taxpayers of New York.
While the bill contains several provisions from the Governor's Program Bill #9 that have been subject to negotiations by the Administration, both legislative houses, and the business community, this bill goes well beyond the Governor's legislation.
Our key issues of concern regarding S.5806 include the following:
PART K – FAMILY LEAVE BENEFITS – The Business Council opposes this provision that would require that state-mandated disability coverage include up to six weeks of coverage per years for employees taking unpaid time off for “child care,” defined as bonding with a newborn, adopted or foster care child. The weekly benefit would be one-half the employee's average weekly wage, up to $420 per week. This bill imposes new costs on business in several ways. First, it will add to the direct cost of mandated, employer-provided disability coverage by expanding its use and more than doubling the current weekly cap on disability benefits for employees taking “child care” leave. Second, it will also impose additional staff costs on business, with the replacement of on-leave workers with resulting in either increased overtime payments for existing staff, or increased costs for temporary employees. Third, unlike existing disability coverage law, this bill prohibits any share of the cost for “child care” coverage from being borne by the covered employee. Finally, the bill also imposes a new employer notification requirement regarding this expanded benefit.
PART Z – UNPAID LEAVE MANDATE – The Business Council opposes this provision that would require employers to provide three months of continuous or intermittent, job-protected leave annually to victims of domestic or sexual abuse. Under Chapter 80/Laws of 2009, it is already unlawful for employers to discriminate against domestic violence victims. This goes well beyond that non-discrimination law, and would impose significant, additional administrative and employee-scheduling cost on employers, on top of those imposed by the existing Family Medical Leave Act. The bill allows for three months of leave each year to be taken continuously or intermittently. For employers, especially small employers, just the tracking of ninety-days' worth of intermittent leave will require a significant and costly additional level of administration, work rescheduling for fill-ins, and additional overtime expense. Moreover, the bill requires the employer to continue to provide medical insurance coverage while the employee is on leave – an unprecedented mandate. The bill has limited provisions for the recovery of thee costs in instances where the employee never returns to work. Realistically, once the employee is on leave and off the payroll, the employer will have no means to recover the unpaid insurance premium. The proposal also includes significant new penalties for any employer violations.
PART J – PUBLIC SECTOR COMPARATIVE WORTH - Existing state and federal law already prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, and federal law prohibits the use of employment practices that have a “disparate impact” based on sex. On top of these existing laws, this bill would adopt a new prohibition of sex-based wage discrimination for public sector employers in New York, and would extend this prohibition to separate and distinct occupations that have “comparable worth.” The bill says these determinations will be based by comparing the “skill, effort and responsibility” of different jobs, but with no consideration of other market forces that could impact the availability of workers with specific skills. Naturally, the bill prohibits any remedies from reducing the pay of any compared employees. The Business Council opposes this and similar “comparative worth” proposals as imposing vague, new standards on compensation practices that are designed only to drive up labor costs.
While the bill contains some meritorious provisions, the additional costs and compliance burdens imposed by the above-cited provisions make this bill unsupportable for the state's private sector. For these reasons, The Business Council respectfully, but strongly, opposes approval of S.5806.