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City Council expands sick leave to include more small businesses

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

A whole lot more city small business employees are about to get paid sick leave.

By a 46-5 vote Wednesday, the City Council extended the paid sick leave law, slated to go into effect in April, to businesses with at least five employees; the current minimum is 15. Additionally, workers would be eligible for a minimum of five paid sick days.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said that, for too long, hardworking New Yorkers had to make a tough choice between a paycheck and the health of a loved one or themselves.

“We need to pass this legislation not only to ensure that no New Yorker falls into crisis and insecurity just because he or she or a family member becomes ill, but also because it is simply the right thing to do,” she said in a statement.

In addition to reducing the minimum number of employees, the Council’s decision, which will now ensure that at least half a million New Yorkers get the paid sick leave, increased the statute of limitations to file a complaint from nine months to two years and includes a grace period of six months before businesses will be fined.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, who pushed for the bill to be passed when he was public advocate, said the move will go a long way to fighting inequality.

“The paid sick leave legislation is the first law I will have the privilege of signing as mayor, and it represents the first of many steps our city will take toward creating one New York, where everyone rises together,” he said in a statement.

The bill was in limbo for years after small business groups, including all of the borough’s chambers of commerce, said it would be a burden on mom and pop shops that couldn’t afford to pay for sick days off.

“What I see every day is that their bottom line is getting thinner and thinner,” Linda Baran the President and CEO of Staten Island Chamber of Commerce said following the vote. “That’s a concern.”

Last year, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn introduced the sick leave bill and was able to get enough support to override Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto.
Mark-Viverito responded to allegations that the small businesses didn’t know about the bill’s changes until the last-minute, saying “conversations has been happening for three years.”

Several unions and groups applauded the move as a step in the right direction for workers’ rights.

“The frontline nurses and health care workers of 1199 SEIU thank the City Council for voting for the expansion of earned sick time, because this is an urgent public health issue that affects all New Yorkers,” said George Gresham, the union's president.

With Matthew Chayes and Cari Romm


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