The Business Council opposes this legislation that would amend the Workers' Compensation Law to expand Paid Family Leave ("PFL") to allow time off to seek services as a victim of domestic or sexual violence. The Business Council is sympathetic to victims of domestic or sexual abuse and its members have led the way in developing innovative programs to help victims deal with its effects and keep their jobs. However, as drafted, this bill raises numerous concerns.
The broad and vague reasons for leave for such victims would constitute an extreme expansion of the PFL program. As the cost of PFL falls entirely on the employee, such an expansion would have a severe impact on workers’ pay – hitting low-wage workers especially hard. We anticipate that the employee contribution would increase significantly as the utilization of a new class of benefits is actuarially factored into the premium rate, which is set annually. These concerns were reflected in Governor Cuomo’s 2018 veto message in response to legislation that would have allowed bereavement leave as a qualifying reason for PFL. The same concerns apply here.
As drafted, qualified reasons for leave would include “medical attention from any physical or psychological injuries, attending counseling sessions in order to deal with the effects of such injuries, seeking legal assistance including attendance in court proceedings or to communicate with an attorney, and seeking services allowing for relocating to a permanent or temporary residence.” Such a broad definition of leave would most certainly lead to dramatic increases in utilization and the resulting increased costs.
Additionally, there is no stated limit on when leave can be taken. Unlike bonding leave, which is limited to 12 months from the qualifying event, no such limit would exist here. This drafting failure could lead to claims being made well beyond a year from the abuse. Again, increasing utilization that could threaten the financial health of the PFL system and creating hardships in employee scheduling.
Finally, domestic or sexual abuse leave would rarely be scheduled in advance. Combining the vague reasons for leave described above and the intermittent unscheduled nature of PFL, employers could ultimately be faced with up to 60 days of unscheduled absence annually by each full time employee. As PFL applies to employers of even one employee, small business in particular will have immense challenges in managing staffing levels to meet customer needs. It is also unclear whether the bill considers the additional two weeks of unpaid leave for victims of domestic/sexual abuse would be counted towards their annual PFL allotment – further complicating compliance and meeting staffing needs.
Employers understand that to attract and retain the best talent available they need to be there for their employee’s in their time of need. For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this bill.