Sick time bill: New York ‘going in wrong direction’ for jobs, expert argues

May 10, 2013

This is a reprint of a column by Dan Orlando a reporter for New York Business Journal:

New York City is now the largest metropolis to approve a bill that mandates paid sick leave for employees. The measure which will provide approximately 1 million more workers up to 5 paid days off is tentatively scheduled to launch in April of 2014 for businesses that employ 20 or more people. In the fall of 2015 fit will take effect for business sporting between 15 and 19 employees.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has publicly stated his displeasure with the now passed bill, expressing concern for what it could do to small business owners.

Michael Saltsman, research director at the Employment Policies Institute in DC, agrees with him.

“New York is going in the wrong direction,” Saltsman told me. “The policies are well intentioned but will have unintended consequences, especially in the service industry and the entry level job market.

Saltsman argues that forcing small businesses with narrow profit margins to fund time off for part-time workers could lead to fewer available employment opportunities.

“When you mandate something like this, companies need to scale back on part-time help,” he said.

Saltsman referred me to a study he published this past February that looked at Connecticut’s recent statewide passing of similar sick-leave legislation.

The report indicates that 31 of 156 Connecticut businesses that were surveyed “scaled back on employee hours, and another six reduced employee wages.”

Also mentioned are 19 businesses that increased consumer prices, 6 that laid off workers, and 16 that “indicated” that they cancelled plans to expand within Connecticut.

Of the businesses surveyed, 38 said that they would provide less job openings because of the added cost of paid time off.

City Council Speaker, Christine C. Quinn, recognizes the potential pitfalls that Saltsman and his study warn against but— despite her previous opposition to the bill—she is now confident that the legislation will “make a positive impact on the lives of New Yorkers.”

“This legislation fully recognizes the importance of protecting the city’s economy,” said Quinn before the official vote took place, “and locks in protections to ensure that its implementation is pegged to continue recovery.”

Gale A. Brewer, council member and the lead bill sponsor, added to Quinn’s sentiments, saying that “Approximately 1 million New Yorkers will now have the fundamental right to a paid day off when they or a family member falls ill, and no worker will be fired if they must stay home. This is a tremendous accomplishment of which all fair-minded New Yorkers can be proud.”

The bill passed with enough votes to negate a veto from Mayor Bloomberg.