New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, announced a proposal for expansion of the paid sick leave bill on Friday. Both expect the bill to breeze through committee hearings and be passed into law before April 1. The proposed bill would require five paid sick days per year for businesses with five or more employees.
Similar to the watered-down version of the paid sick leave legislation that passed the Council in March of 2013, this bill will require the Department of Consumer Affairs to enforce the law. Language was still being finalized on the new bill, but according to the 2013 paid sick leave bill, the law is a complaint-based system, meaning that DCAS would not check with each business for compliance with the law, but rather rely on employees to file a complaint. Consumer Affairs would then open an investigation looking at the claim, and businesses that violated the law would receive a $500 fine.
Labor enforcement would be a new area of responsibility for Consumer Affairs, and one they were none too pleased to take on back in March.
“Among the many concerns about this legislation, the Council seems to not understand that the Department of Consumer Affairs regulates fairness in the marketplace, not labor and payroll issues,” a department spokesperson said by email in March 2013.
Asked on Friday about the concerns DCA brought up, de Blasio said, “We think they are the right agency to handle this. We will make sure they will have the capacity to do it.”
De Blasio did not address whether DCA would be allowed to hire more staff to regulate the expansion of paid sick leave, which will now include 500,000 New Yorkers. In fiscal year 2013 DCA had 292 full-time employees, according to Independent Budget Office documents.
“There is language to make sure that if enforcement requires help from other agencies, we can do that, but DCA will be the lead,” de Blasio said.
When asked to clarify which other agencies would be allowed to help in enforcement, a spokesperson for de Blasio said the law would allow for any agencies to help at the mayor’s discretion.
DCA is currently one of several agencies without a new commissioner. A de Blasio spokesperson confirmed leadership is in place to maintain the day-to-day responsibility of the agencies. The spokesperson did not give a timetable for appointing a new commissioner.
A Department of Consumer Affairs spokesperson gave a brief overview of the agency’s duties in enforcing and administering the paid sick leave expansion: “DCA is responsible for administering and enforcing the City’s Earned Sick Time Act. DCA will also provide assistance to help businesses comply and employees understand their rights. DCA is working closely with City Hall on an implementation plan and will soon be making materials available.”