Mark Goldstein contributed to the content of this post. 

New Mayor Bill de Blasio wasted no time putting his stamp on the New York City employment law landscape. On January 17, de Blasio proposed an amendment to expand the already-broad paid sick leave law that the New York City Council passed last summer. Already one of only seven jurisdictions with a paid sick leave law (Newark, New Jersey is poised to soon become the eighth), the mayor’s proposal propels the City to the forefront of this polarizing issue.

Formally enacted on June 27, NYC’s paid sick leave law, entitled the New York City Earned Sick Time Act (the “Act”), obligates most City employers to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. The regulation is currently slated to take effect on April 1, 2014 for employers with 20 or more workers. For those businesses with between 15 and 20 employees, implementation is currently delayed until October 2015. Even employers who do not meet the minimum employee threshold will still be required to provide employees with 5 days of unpaid sick leave annually.

According to Mayor de Blasio, however, these obligations, unheard of in most jurisdictions, do not go far enough. For that reason, he has proposed a fairly drastic overhaul of the Act – before the law even takes effect. Most notably, the mayor’s proposed expansion would:

  • Obligate employers with 5 or more employees, rather than the current 15-employee threshold, to provide paid sick leave. Under de Blasio’s plan, small businesses are no longer immune from the costs associated with paid leave.
  • Eliminate the Act’s staggered, 18-month rollout. All covered employers would be subject the law beginning on April 1, 2014. For employers that anticipated having more than a year to prepare for the Act, this will mean getting up to speed in a matter of weeks.
  • Expand the definition of “family member.” The Act currently provides that employees may use paid leave to care for a sick family member, which is defined as parents, spouses, domestic partners, and children. Mayor de Blasio proposes to expand this definition to include grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.

Passage of de Blasio’s proposal is virtually assured. The Act, in its original form, passed by a margin of 45-3.

How Does This Affect My Company?

For employers with 20 or more workers, the mayor’s proposal is nothing more than a mild irritant. But for employers with less than 20 employees, the bill, if adopted, will have a profound and resounding impact. First and foremost, the bill will by its very nature increase costs, especially given that most small- to medium-size businesses do not currently provide paid sick leave. And second, the bill will force many employers to review and revise their sick leave policies in a rather short timeframe. More than anything, however, Mayor de Blasio’s proposal is emblematic of the left-leaning agenda for which he has long advocated and that was a staple of his campaign platform. NYC employers should thus brace for a deluge of pro-employee legislation over the next several years.