The Business Council of New York State, on behalf of its more than 2,300 members statewide, oppose Part J of this Article VII budget bill that would amend the labor law to require every New York employer to provide its employees with mandatory, job protected paid sick leave. The state’s smallest employers would be required to provide unpaid, but job protected, leave. Additionally, the proposed legislation gives broad authority to the Commissioner of Labor to develop regulations and guidance to implement this massive new mandate.
The overwhelming majority of employers in New York State already provide paid sick leave to their employees. Employers design and administer these sick leave plans to meet the unique needs of their employees and customers. Legislative mandates by city or state governments rarely meet the needs of the employer or the employee. Instead, these mandated plans add a significant administrative burden and additional costs to employers as they try to comply with a myriad of compliance requirements that often interfere with effective staffing needed to meet customer needs. Making matters worse, under this legislation, employers do not know what these compliance requirements may be – as implementation details have been left to the Commissioner to determine after the fact.
Let’s look the New York City Safe and Sick Leave Law as an example of our concerns with the specifics of mandated leave, specifically with regard to the administrative burden on small employers and costs associated with this mandated plan. Effective April 1, 2014 and modified/expanded May 2018, the NYC Safe and Sick Leave Law has proven to be an immense administrative burden to small employers.
Statistics provided by the NYC Division of Consumer Affairs show that since implementation, the Division has received more than 2,200 complaints. The most common reasons for complaints are overwhelmingly administrative. For example “notice not provided” is cited in nearly two-thirds of those complaints. Employers are trying to comply with the law, but the notification and recordkeeping requirements are proving too complicated. Review of these statistics make it clear that the administrative requirements of the law are too complex for small businesses that may not have a dedicated human resources professional. These often unintentional compliance failures have resulted in nearly $2.8 million in fines imposed on business to date.
It is our hope the state, through the actions of the Commissioner, do not model any future New York State mandate on the New York City law. The complexity of this law is significant and is most evident in two specific areas. First, the acceptable uses of sick time. Reasons range from the traditional (care for yourself or a “family member” who is sick or requires medical treatment) to wide ranging reasons not traditionally considered “sick” leave. Secondly, in addition to the broad and subjective nature of allowable use of sick time, the New York City law’s definition of “family member” is also extremely broad, incorporating a wide range of possibilities. This definition includes:
- Any individual whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of family
- Child (biological, adopted, or foster child; legal ward; child of an employee standing in loco parentis)
- Spouse (current or former regardless of whether they reside together)
- Domestic Partner (current or former regardless of whether they reside together)
- Child or Parent of an employee’s spouse or domestic partner
- Sibling (including a half, adopted, or step sibling)
- Any other individual related by blood to the employee
With such a wide array of acceptable reasons for the use of “sick leave” and a practically infinite list of eligible “family members,” one can imagine the position small business owners are in when deciding whether to approve or deny sick leave.
Faced with low unemployment, severe workforce shortages, and recent implementation of the state’s paid family leave requirement, employers of all sizes would be faced with staffing difficulties and additional administrative burdens if such a law were imposed on all employers regardless of size. This one size fits all approach will continue to increase the cost of doing business in New York State, putting continued job growth at risk. For these reasons, we oppose this legislation.