Strong And Fair Economy: Three Years After Paid Sick Leave Expansion, Unemployment At Historic Lows

April 4, 2017

Department of Consumer Affairs’ Nearly Triples Paid Sick Leave Restitution for Nearly 16,000 New Yorkers

NEW YORK, NY –Mayor Bill de Blasio, Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas and New Yorkers celebrated the third anniversary of New York’s Paid Sick Leave Law, which created the legal right to sick leave for 3.4 million private and nonprofit sector workers, nearly 1.2 million of whom did not previously have access to this vital workplace benefit. Last month, New York City recorded its lowest unemployment rate since 1976, continuing a strong expansion of new jobs that has coincided with new protections for employees. Over the past three years, DCA secured restitution for nearly 16,000 New Yorkers, and this past weekend the agency filed charges on behalf of nine JetBlue ground crew and flight attendants against JetBlue for violating the law.

“In New York, we’ve shown that protecting working families and growing our economy go hand-in-hand,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “For the last three years, businesses can no longer punish employees for taking time off to care for themselves or a sick child, a benefit to families and to public health. At the same time, New York’s economy is booming, with unemployment reaching lows not seen for over forty years. I thank the City Council for taking leadership and passing this law, as well as the Department of Consumer Affairs for protecting and supporting workers, especially the most vulnerable among them, including immigrants, women, people of color, or those with low incomes.”

“The Council is thrilled to mark the third anniversary of its expansion of the Paid Sick Leave Law, which has helped ensure that no New Yorker has to choose between a day's pay or caring for a sick loved one," said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This important measure has expanded protections to over a million residents, and represents the commitment we hold to working for policies and legislation that make New York City a more fair and just place for its workers. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Margaret Chin, along with the staff at the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Labor Policy and Standards for their diligent work on this essential initiative.”

“Three years ago, thanks to Mayor de Blasio who significantly expanded the law, our city took a step towards building an even stronger—and healthier—workforce with its Paid Sick Leave Law,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “But there’s much more to do to fully protect our workforce and communities, especially as we anxiously face changes at the federal level. I want New Yorkers to know that our local workplace laws apply to all workers, regardless of status and no stroke of a pen in Washington will change that.”

In the three years since the Paid Sick Leave Law went into effect, the agency has closed more than 900 cases, securing more restitution for close to 16,000 employees. Many of these New Yorkers work for low wages as security guards, home health aides, restaurant workers, and retail workers, and many are immigrants, people of color, or women.

DCA’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards (OLPS), which is charged with enforcing the Paid Sick Leave Law, as well as others, was formally established in 2016 under the leadership of Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. While DCA OLPS has investigated many different industries and employers for non-compliance with the Paid Sick Leave Law, the airline industry is one industry in New York City where OLPS has repeatedly found merit to charges against employers of violations of the law. DCA OLPS filed charges against JetBlue on Friday, March 31, 2017, which follows a case filed against Delta Airlines in February. DCA OLPS has received nine complaints from current and former JetBlue employees with various job titles (six flight attendants, two ground crew members, one customer service representative), all of whom have alleged violations of the Paid Sick Leave Law. Three of the complainants were ultimately fired as a result of JetBlue’s disciplinary policy. DCA OLPS’ charges against JetBlue include failing to properly accrue and allow employees to use sick leave, retaliation for the use of accrued leave (issuance of disciplinary “points” and termination), failing to provide pay for sick leave, and failing to provide employees with the Notice of Employee Rights as required by the law. In addition to the suits against Delta and JetBlue, DCA OLPS has an open investigation involving a third airline and a subcontracting company for the industry.

“Given the absence of any indication from the new administration in Washington that prior federal aggressive labor enforcement will continue, the City’s commitment to protecting the rights of workers is now more important than ever,” said DCA Deputy Commissioner for OLPS Liz Vladeck. “As the enforcement numbers show, DCA OLPS’ mission is to help drive a culture of compliance with respect to workplace laws, and we are working to ensure all workers in New York City are able to access the rights that our laws provide.”

Prior to the passage of the Paid Sick Leave Law, businesses raised concerns about the feasibility of implementing the law.  However, these concerns have not been realized. The New York City Economic Development Corporation recently announced that the citywide unemployment has dropped to the lowest rate since 1976—4.5 percent in January 2017, which is the earliest available unemployment data from the New York State Department of Labor. New York City has added 329,800 new jobs since Mayor de Blasio took office. Additionally, research by the Murphy Institute and Center for Economic and Policy Research has shown that the City’s Paid Sick Leave Law has not had a negative impact on businesses. In fact, the overwhelming majority of employers surveyed (more than 85 percent) reported the law did not increase costs, while more than 94 percent reported that the paid sick days law had no effect on productivity, and two percent reported that productivity increased. Similarly, 96 percent of employers reported no change in customer service as a result of the new law, and more than three percent saw an increase; less than one percent reported a decrease in customer service. Virtually no employers reported any change in turnover.

Several million New Yorkers are covered under the City’s Paid Sick Leave Law. When it went into effect in 2014, New York City became the seventh jurisdiction in the country to enact such a law, and more than two dozen additional jurisdictions have enacted laws giving workers access to paid sick leave since then. DCA continues to be a leader in the nation on advocacy around the importance of paid sick leave and, with the creation of OLPS, it is New York City’s central resource for workers and employers.

DCA’s OLPS enforces, implements, and works on the development of a new generation of minimum labor standards for a stronger city. It focuses on ensuring all workers can realize these rights, regardless of immigration status. In addition to the Paid Sick Leave Law, OLPS is implementing and/or enforcing a number of municipal workplace laws, including the Commuter Benefits Law, the City’s Living and Prevailing Wage Laws, and the Grocery Workers Retention Act. DCA OLPS also houses two new first-of-their-kind initiatives: the City’s new Paid Care Division, which is dedicated to defending the rights of paid care workers, improving the quality of paid care jobs, and strengthening the paid care system, and implementation of the Freelance isn’t Free Act, which is the very first law in the country that establishes a robust ability for freelance workers to recover unpaid or delayed wages. DCA OLPS is also charged with conducting original data collection and research, policy development, education and outreach on key workplace issues, fostering relationships with community partner, and advocating for new protections to help New York City’s working families and communities thrive.

DCA’s approach to implementation of these new and future workplace municipal laws begins with extensive education and outreach to ensure that businesses and workers know and understand their rights and responsibilities under the law. For example, the Paid Sick Leave public education campaign included a multi-year education campaign that has reached more than six million New Yorkers in 26 languages through extensive advertisements in subways, buses, and local and foreign-language print media, radio, and on television. DCA also participated in almost 1,500 events where staff distributed more than 2 million brochures about paid sick leave.

Under the NYC Paid Sick Leave 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. Employees with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Accrual begins on employee’s first day of employment and employees can begin using accrued leave 120 days after. On the first day of employment, employers must provide the Notice of Employee Rights in English and, if available on the DCA website, their primary language. Domestic workers who have worked for their employer for more than one year must be provided two days of paid sick leave, which is in addition to the three days of paid rest under the New York State Labor Law.

Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/PaidSickLeave or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information, the required Notice of Employee Rights, one-page overviews for employers and employeesFAQs, DCA’s paid sick leave training presentation, and the complaint form. DCA also developed tools to help employers keep track of employees’ hours worked and sick leave used as well as model forms for verification of authorized sick time used, intention to use sick time and request to make up missed work as an alternative to using sick time.

“On this day, we proudly commemorate the hallmark New York City Paid Sick Leave law that was made possible by the combined visions of Mayor de Blasio and the New York City Council. In a time when labor rights are being threatened at the national level, we must continue to protect New Yorkers in the workplace and make sure they are aware that the City of New York is there for them,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal, Jr., Chair of the Council Committee on Consumer Affairs

“The fight for Paid Sick Leave stretched out for years, in part because of the usual predictions of doom and gloom for businesses and jobs if we made our workplaces fairer and healthier,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, sponsor of New York City's first paid sick leave law. “On this third anniversary of the Paid Sick Leave Law going into effect, New York's economy is strong and we've posted unprecedented job growth numbers, proving that we don't have to choose between a growing economy and fairer, healthier workplaces. The de Blasio administration and the Department of Consumer Affairs have my thanks for their work on enforcing our law.”

“The Paid Sick Law has empowered working families, giving them the time they need to take care of themselves or their loved ones,” said City Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Council Civil Service and Labor Committee. “The past three years have shown that not only can we pass and enforce worker protection laws, but that such laws are also good for businesses and our economy. I want to congratulate DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas and OLPS Deputy Commissioner Vladeck for the successful enforcement of this law.”

“The third anniversary of Paid Sick Leave gives us the opportunity to reflect on this tremendous legislative achievement, as well as harden our determination to protect the gains that we have made,” said City Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “Regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C., we must continue to support a healthier workforce that is the cornerstone of strong and vibrant economy. I thank Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Salas, and all those fighting on behalf of workers and their families.”

“The Paid Sick Leave Law is more than a health initiative - it is an economic one, too.  Vulnerable workers in our city: immigrants, women, people of color, or those with low incomes, can barely afford to miss a day of pay. Missing pay could mean the difference when it comes to putting food on their table or having money for transportation.  No one should have to risk their health, or the time they may need to care for a child or a spouse, just to earn a living.  As a supporter of the City’s Paid Sick Law, I commend the City on the law’s third anniversary and the results accomplished,” said City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., Chair of the Council Committee on Small Business.

“New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law has protected thousands of New Yorkers since it first went into effect," said City Council Member Danny Dromm.  “Thanks to this just and humane law, working families are not forced to choose between their physical health and financial stability.  I am proud to have been an early supporter of Paid Sick Leave and look forward to working with the administration to strengthen the protections this law provides to our workforce.”

“When we expanded paid sick leave, we moved our city closer to being a fairer, more compassionate place to live and work, “ said City Council Member Brad Lander. “DCA Commissioner Salas and OLPS Deputy Commissioner Liz Vladeck have done an exceptional job enforcing these critical protections, closing more than 900 cases and securing more than $4.9 million in restitution for 16,000 employees. But this is only the beginning. As the rights of hard-working Americans are continually threatened by the Trump administration, DCA's work to increase awareness among workers about their rights and to enforce local laws will be more important than ever before. I look forward to working with the de Blasio Administration to ensure that our progress isn’t undermined, and that we continue to build on the progress we've made to protect workers at the local level.”

“Since it went into effect three years ago, the expanded Paid Sick Leave Law has helped hundreds of thousands New Yorkers, especially low-wage workers who need the protections most, take time off when they are sick without worrying that it will cost them much-need pay or their jobs,” said Hector Figueroa, President of 32BJ-SEIU. “As we face increasing threats to workers’ rights at the federal level under the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, these worker protections are even more important at the local level. In New York City, Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Lorelei Salas are committed leaders in the fight for workers’ rights.”

“New York City’s Paid Sick Leave Law has made a significant impact in the lives of low wage workers across the city. The law is model legislation that affords much-needed protections to workers, especially now that workers’ rights are in peril at the federal level,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union and Executive Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. “Now more than ever, we need local governments to take the lead in protecting and expanding workers’ rights.  We are fortunate in New York City to have the leadership of Commissioner Salas and her team at DCA, who are vigilantly enforcing the law to impressive results.”

“On the third anniversary of paid sick leave protections going into effect, it is important to remember that while our City is doing what it can to protect workers, they are nonetheless under attack from a federal government that sides with billionaire corporations and deploys racist rhetoric to attack our hardworking immigrant workers. We need our City more than ever to stand with workers and to have our backs. The 20,000 members of Make the Road New York are grateful for the support and fighting spirit that DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas and her team embody,” said Deborah Axt, Co-Executive Director of Make the Road-New York.

“Commemorating the third anniversary of the NYC Paid Sick Leave Law today, we applaud DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas and her staff with the impressive track record of their Office of Labor Policy and Standards enforcing the Paid Sick Leave Law, which has benefited tens of thousands of New Yorkers,” said Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition.

“Robust outreach and enforcement of New York City’s paid sick leave law is ensuring that the workers the measure was intended to help – workers with low incomes - are actually benefiting,” said David R. Jones, CEO and President of the Community Service Society, an anti-poverty group and one of the leaders of the fight to have the Paid Sick Leave Law enacted. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Mayor and the Council on advancing additional initiatives to protect vulnerable workers. This work will put New York City on the forefront of progressive policies that combat economic inequality and facilitate upward mobility.”

“As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Paid Sick Leave Law going into effect, it is clear that the law is now more successful than ever. Thanks to DCA’s extensive education and enforcement, more people than ever are exercising their rights. Hardworking New Yorkers deserve time to take care of themselves and their loved ones, without worrying about losing their jobs or livelihoods. I look forward to continued partnership with DCA and its Office of Labor Policy and Standards on paid sick leave, as well as host of other new initiatives the agency is pioneering,” said Jennifer Jones-Austin, CEO of FPWA.

“A Better Balance, which helped draft and pass the New York City Paid Sick Leave Law, applauds the Mayor for making enforcement of this important law a priority.  We are especially pleased that a dedicated office has been established within the Department of Consumer Affairs to enforce labor laws in our city,” said Sherry Leiwant, Co-President of A Better Balance. “Under the effective leadership of Commissioner Lorelei Salas and Liz Vladeck, Deputy Commissioner for the newly-established Office of Labor Policy and Standards, taking a day off when they or their loved ones are sick has truly become the right of all workers in New York City.” 

“The Paid Sick Leave Law makes it possible for working people in immigrant communities to take care of our families without sacrificing a living. More people in the workforce means a stronger economy for all, and that's our New York,” said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCA protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCA empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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