City Council Expected to Pass Expanded Paid Sick Day Legislation

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with progressive allies. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito with progressive allies. (Photo: NYC Council/William Alatriste)

The City Council is set to pass a far-reaching paid sick day bill this afternoon, marking the first major legislative salvo of the new, left-leaning council. 

Led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the council is expected to vote to expand mandatory paid sick time coverage to nearly every business that employs five or more people, despite objections from business leaders, who argue the move will limit hiring. Under the current law, most businesses with 15 or more employees are required to provide paid sick days, though many categories remain exempt.

“No one should have to choose between a job and their health. No parent should have to choose between caring for a child and putting food on the table,” Mr. Mark-Viverito said at a media briefing before the vote this afternoon. The bill is aptly numbered “1-A.”

The battle over the expansion of the sick leave legislation was a focal point of last year’s mayor’s race. Mayor Bill de Blasio, then the public advocate running for mayor against former Council Speaker Christine Quinn, slammed Ms. Quinn for bottling up a similar version of the bill for several years. Ms. Quinn finally allowed a vote on a watered-down version of the bill, but Mr. de Blasio and other liberal allies contended it did not go far enough.

When Mr. de Blasio won his election and Ms. Mark-Vivertio was elected speaker of the council last month, expanding the paid sick days bill was regarded as an immediate and achievable legislative priority.

Business interests countered by arguing the expansion would harm small business owners in a still-fragile economic environment and said they weren’t being given enough time to comply with the law, which is set to go into effect in April. 

In addition to expanding the number of businesses that need to provide paid sick days, the law will broaden the definition of “family member” for which sick days can be used to care for to include grandchildren, grandparents and siblings.

Ms. Mark-Viverito said that certain concerns from business owners were taken into consideration and that a six month grace period for a violation of the law will be implemented for newly-covered businesses. 

“Today is about workers,” said Councilwoman Margaret Chin, a lead sponsor of the bill. “[It speaks to] the idea that if you are sick … that you that do not to be afraid that you will lose your job or your paycheck.”

Update (2:53 p.m.): The City Council voted 46 to 5 to adopt the bill. 

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