A majority of Brooklyn City Councilmembers are backing a bill that would require large employers to provide nine paid sick days for their employees, and small businesses to provide five such days.
While this idea is noble, the bill itself has some serious flaws.
For one, most businesses already provide sufficient paid sick days for their workers. To cover the new mandate, those that don’t could merely cut your personal or vacation days. So much for the new benefit!
But where the bill targets small businesses — specifically, the Mom and Pops that are the lifeblood of our neighborhoods — things really go awry.
One part of the bill, for example, requires such business to keep detailed records of worker attendance, plus track the exact number of workers they have at all times. As anyone who has run a business knows, such reporting requires a substantial amount of work (not that most members of the Council have every actually overseen a payroll, but that’s another story).
Mom and Pop would also have to provide sick leave to part-time employees, something that, again, sounds reasonable, but could severely increase the cost of doing business, and would likely keep employers from hiring workers “on the books.”
Which brings us to the huge elephant in the room — the undocumented workers who are not addressed by the bill. Given the nature of the hidden economy in this city, no small business is going to rush to put an undocumented worker on the tax rolls simply to then be forced to provide five days off.
Also, another part of the bill allows for sick days to be booked in advance — language that leaves the law open for abuse by allowing workers to extend a vacation or merely take a day off with pay. The rule on sick days should simply be that if you or your child or spouse wakes up sick, you call in sick. Booking such days in advance violates the spirit of the employee-employer compact.
Another provision forbids employers from retaliating or discriminating against employees who exercise their rights to these new paid sick days. We agree on the need to prevent unfair retaliation, but we strongly reject forcing employers to stand idly by if employees abuse their new rights under this law. If a worker is using these paid sick days as vacation days, employers need to have recourse.
One last way to know that this is a bad bill? It specifically exempts government from its requirements!
So despite the reasonable intentions behind this Council effort, we cannot support the bill as written.