Paid Sick Leave for city residents debated

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While Washington grapples over a new federal health insurance bill, the City Council is having its own brouhaha over a related bill.

Dubbed the Paid Sick Time Bill (No. 1059), the legislation would require businesses with 10 or fewer employees to provide five days of sick time. Businesses with 10 or more employees would be required to provide nine days sick time for all employees.

Businesses found in violation will be subject to a $1,000 fine for each infraction.

Manhattan City Councilmember Gail Brewer introduced the bill, which was co-sponsored by 38 Councilmembers including Brooklyn Councilmembers Mike Nelson, Letitia James, Vincent Gentile, David Yassky, Albert Vann, Darlene Mealy, Charles Barron, Sara Gonzalez, Diana Reyna, Mathieu Eugene, Domenic Recchia and Bill de Blasio.

However, since being introduced late last month, the bill has been decried by business groups including the 5 Boro Chamber Alliance.

“Intro No 1059 is yet another example of a well-intentioned bill that carries the unintended consequence of hurting the very workers it seeks to help,” said Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the 5 Boro Chamber Alliance. “The government-mandated burden of providing paid sick leave to all employees could lead some businesses to re-think hiring plans or, even worse, lay off workers as the burden becomes too much to bear, especially in this worrisome economy.”

Gil Cygler, owner of All-Car Rent A Car, 1941 Utica Avenue, charged that often government is quick to impose mandates, but offers no help in meeting the new guidelines.

“To have the government impose more mandates will make my business and others reconsider when it comes to hiring another employee, or worse, whether to reduce our workforce to pay for these new mandates,” said Cygler.

But Brewer said the cost to small businesses would be marginal, and that not having the law in place is also a health issue.

“We’re not trying to penalize small businesses,” said Brewer, adding that she would gladly sit down with the 5 Boro Chamber alliance to tweak the bill.

Brewer noted that in a lot of industries, such as the restaurant business, there is often no paid sick time off and employees sometimes get fired for not showing up.

City Councilmember Lew Fidler, who has not taken a position on the bill, says it’s a tough call on whether he will support it.

“This bill by its very nature has to be somewhat complicated. I share some of the concerns of the Chamber of Commerce, but also of working people,” he said.

Mayor Bloomberg spokesperson Stu Loeser said the mayor generally doesn’t comment on bills until they have a hearing, but he has been on record generally being in support of paid sick leave.

The bill is expected to go before the Council’s Committee on Civil Service and Labor, although no date for that has been set yet.

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