Ready or Not, Paid Sick Leave Bill Set to Start

March 17, 2014 Updated: March 18, 2014

NEW YORK—On April 1, one of the most expansive paid sick leave laws in the nation will take effect, but the city has no public outreach campaign in effect and minimal information available for employers or employees.

Mayor De Blasio attended a public hearing on the paid sick leave bill Monday. He said that he will sign the bill later this week.

The 311 Call Center was directing calls about paid sick leave to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) website Monday. The website had only a brief description of the law with a link to the legislation text. There was no information on what employers need to do to comply.

Maryam F., a live-chat representative at the DCA website, said, “Currently there is no information available.” She directed employers and the reporter to monitor the department website or leave an email address for updates.

When the paid sick leave bill becomes law in two weeks, businesses with more than five employees will have to begin keeping records of the hours their employees work and the number of paid sick days each is eligible for.

A DCA official said that the department is working on a public outreach campaign, but did not provide further details.

The DCA has been operating without a commissioner since December, when Jonathan Mintz left. In his role as public advocate, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Mintz to resign. Alba Pico, the first deputy commissioner, has been in charge of the department in the interim.

“It certainly doesn’t help,” said Daniel DiSalvo, assistant professor of political science at City College and senior fellow at Manhattan Institute. “Some of the rule-making process is at the lower level of the bureaucracy. But to the sense that de Blasio would like to put his own stamp on this law, that would usually be done through the person he would appoint commissioner, who is a political appointee rather than a career bureaucrat.”

The DCA is awaiting the mayor’s signature to begin required training, sending notifications to employees, and clarifying rules, a department representative wrote in an email. That gives DCA less than two weeks to educate 500,000 New Yorkers and 175,000 small businesses.

Small-business representatives have spoken out against the speed at which the law was rushed through the legislative process, saying that it will blindside small businesses already overburdened with the city’s fines and requirements. Many council members also expressed concerns about the bill’s impact on small businesses before voting for it late last month.

When asked about the absence of outreach and information about paid sick leave, a representative from the mayor’s office said that the bill includes a six-month grace period to allow small businesses to adjust, during which time businesses will be exempt from fines.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov