standard ‘Playing Hooky’ for a Cause: Paid Sick Leave Day Spreads Awareness of Workers’ Rights

Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Robert Cornegy Take Part in the Paid Sick Leave Event

Council Members Laurie Cumbo and Robert Cornegy Take Part in the Paid Sick Leave Event (Council Member Laurie Cumbo’s Office)

A range of prominent officials conducted a massive public awareness campaign this morning to remind more than one million New York City workers about their new right to begin using paid sick leave. Some 1,400 business owners and leaders, community organizations, workers, unions, city employees, and everyday New Yorkers spread the message at 150 subways stops and other locations around the city. The Mayor held an event near the Barclays Center with Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Julie Menin, City Council members, and other officials.

“Today is a big step forward to ensure New Yorkers can take care of their health and their families,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32 BJ SEIU. “Now, working New Yorkers will no longer have to make the choice between staying home with a sick child and putting their jobs or economic security on the line.”

The paid sick leave law went into effect April 1, 2014 and will be applicable starting at the end of this month. It covers most employees who work more than 80 hours a year in New York City, including full-time employees, part-time employees, temporary employees, transitional jobs program employees, and undocumented employees. These employees are able to accrue up to 40 hours of earned paid sick leave each year. Employers must allow all covered employees to begin using accrued paid sick leave on July 30, 2014.

“This historic law will now guarantee one million New Yorker City workers access to paid sick leave,” said DCA Commissioner Julie Menin.

Donna Dolan, Co-Director of the NYC Paid Sick Days Coalition, and Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, was proud of the day’s outreach efforts–which she felt were nearly as important as the law itself.

“This law will only make a difference in workers’ lives if they are aware of its existence,” Dolan said.

City Council members from Brooklyn assisted in the outreach efforts.

“As Chair of the Council’s Committee on Small Business, I’m proud to participate in this unprecedented, citywide effort to increase awareness of workers’ rights and employers’ responsibilities under the City’s new paid sick leave law,” said Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. “There’s no better way to share information and communicate than person-to-person. Every brief conversation that happens today will help workers and employers understand that our City is committed to supporting them in taking all the steps needed to put this new legal right into practice to improve their daily lives and the functioning of their businesses.”

“I am proud to have advocated for this legislation along with my fellow Council members earlier this year. It is important that everyone know of their benefits,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.

Although previously controversial, even pro-business groups expressed their support for the law, likely due to its measured approach.

“By providing guidance and support ahead of when regulations take effect, and implementing the law in stages, the Department of Consumer Affairs has shown that this law can balance the needs of workers and small businesses—the engine of job growth throughout the five boroughs,” said President of the Brooklyn Chambers of Commerce Carlo A. Scissura.

DCA’s paid sick leave campaign includes advertisements in the city’s subway cars, stations, and buses. The campaign will continue through July and into the summer with advertisements on television, radio, online and in daily, community, and foreign language newspapers, as well as training events, webinars and other outreach activities for working New Yorkers, businesses, and families.

“The expansion of paid sick leave in New York City is an important benefit that will cover more than one million employees effective July 30. As one of the first bills signed into law by Mayor de Blasio, with support from members of the New York City Council, it was important for us to partner with the de Blasio Administration and the Department of Consumer Affairs to inform New Yorkers of their right to use earned sick leave to care for themselves or their families,” Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo (D-35) said. “Today’s collaborative outreach across this city demonstrates our renewed commitment to sustaining the health of our city and workforce by ensuring that all New Yorkers understand that they no longer have to choose between their health and their employment.” 

DCA’s paid sick leave campaign has reached out to more than 400,000 small businesses and thousands of workers at more than 150 town hall meetings and events throughout the five boroughs. The agency also advertised on subways and buses, as well as translated informational material into 25 languages, going well beyond the City’s Executive Order languages. Through September, DCA will intensify its activities through television and radio ads, and community and ethnic newspapers. The City will continue to expand community outreach efforts through partnerships and targeted educational and outreach for workers and businesses.

Under the law, employers with five or more employees who are hired to work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid sick leave. No employer can retaliate against a worker for requesting and using sick leave or for filing a complaint for alleged violations of the law with DCA. Retaliation includes any threat, discipline, firing, demotion, suspension or reduction in hours or pay. The accrual rate is one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave per calendar year. Accrual began April 1, 2014, or on an employee’s first day of employment, whichever came later. An employer can require documentation from the employee’s licensed health care provider if more than three consecutive workdays are taken as sick leave. Up to 40 hours can be carried over to the next calendar year; however, only 40 hours per calendar year may be used.

Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/PaidSickLeave or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information, including upcoming events and webinars, the required Notice of Employee Rights, one-page overviews for employers and employees, FAQs, DCA’s paid sick leave training presentation in multiple languages, the complaint form, and legal interpretations. New Yorkers can also follow DCA on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram using the hashtag #paidsickleave, and employers can ask questions online on DCA’s Live Chat for Business platform Monday – Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Employers must provide the paid sick leave notice to employees in English and, if available on the DCA website, their primary language. The one-page overviews for employers and employees and Notice of Employee Rights are now available in 25 languages: English, Spanish, Chinese (traditional), French Creole (Haitian Kreyol), Italian, Korean, Russian (already available), as well as Chinese (simplified), Bengali, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Polish, Yiddish, French, Urdu, German, Portuguese, Albanian, Serbian, Croatian, Tagalog, Greek, Punjabi (Gurmukhi), Japanese, and Yoruba.

Under the new law, if you work in New York City for more than 80 hours a year, you can:

  • Earn up to 40 hours of sick leave each year to care for yourself or a family member.
  • Start using earning leave on July 30, 2014.
  • If you are an employer, including a not-for-profit or small business, you must provide:
  • Paid sick leave, if you have five or more employees who work in New York City; or unpaid sick leave, if you have fewer than five employees.
  • Two days of paid sick leave to domestic workers who have worked for you for more than one year.
  • This leave is in addition to the three days of paid rest to which domestic workers are entitled under New York State Labor Law.