BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation Thursday, March 20 expanding paid sick leave to companies with at least five employees starting next month.
“This will be the first city law that I will have the privilege to sign as mayor, and I could not be more honored that that law is the expanded paid sick leave law — so important to the people of this city,” de Blasio said.
The bill removes many of the compromises reached in a paid sick bill passed under former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — that legislation applied only to larger businesses, and was phased in over the course of several years, depending on the size of the company.
This legislation will take effect April 1. The bill signed Thursday will apply to any business with five or more employees — but there will be a grace period for those smaller businesses that wouldn’t have been covered by the previous law, which would have applied first to businesses with 20 or more employees and later to those with 15 or more employees.
“We have prevailed at last — we have achieved our full goal — half a million more people about to be covered under a law that will protect their rights,” de Blasio said. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark- Viverito offered the example of a lowwage worker whose wife was killed and son injured in the East Harlem gas explosion in her district. The man has been at his son’s bedside since the explosion, she said. “Those individuals now have protection to be able to stand by the beside, at a hospital, of a child,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said. “This is very real to many families many times over in this city.”
The mayor — who ran on the promise of representing the outer boroughs — opted to sign his first bill at a Brooklyn ice cream manufacturer, rather than the City Hall Blue Room, where bills are often signed. Staten Island’s two Republican Council members, Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio (South Shore) and Councilman Steven Matteo (Mid- Island/Brooklyn), were among those voting against the legislation in the Council — where many members expressed concerns about how the bill might affect small businesses but voted for it anyway.
While a six-month grace period applies to businesses with fewer than 19 employees, it won’t apply to those with more — the businesses that would have been covered by the original law. But with the law going into effect in under two weeks, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce President Linda Baran said businesses haven’t even been educated about the original law, let alone this one. But de Blasio said there has been plenty of information out over the “the last four years” as the bill has been discussed. “There’s been a lot of information out since the original bill was passed last year,” he added.
“So I don’t think there’s too many businesses that haven’t heard the basics, but we’re going to continue that education effort.” Consumer Affairs Department Deputy Commissioners Alba Pico said the department would launch a “big campaign” in the subways and buses at the end of the month. “We have the paperwork that is required for them to enforce the law, and also a notice that they have to give out to the employees,” she said.
“So, we’re ready, and many businesses are ready now.” The mayor said education and making aggrieved workers whole — rather than fining businesses — would be his focus for the law. “I care deeply about fairness for small business. I think the way this law is structured, with the emphasis on education, the emphasis on working with small business, it’s going to turn out to be a great result for everyone,” de Blasio said.