Cornegy Votes Yes with Reservations On The Paid Sick Leave Bill

Stephen Witt
By Stephen Witt February 27, 2014 15:06 Updated

Cornegy Votes Yes with Reservations On The Paid Sick Leave Bill

Paid-sick-leave-2As this paper went to press, Bedford-Stuyvesant City Councilman Robert Cornegy voted yes for the Sick Paid Leave Bill – one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature pieces of legislation.

Under the bill, which is now headed to de Blasio’s desk for his signature, businesses in the city with five employees or more will be required as of April 1 to provide five days paid sick leave per year, with new employees accruing paid sick time after 90 calendar days with a company.

Businesses with 5 to 19 employees will have a six-month grace period from fines for noncompliance with new, extended record-keeping rules and compliance with the law.

In voting for the measure, Cornegy, who Chairs the Committee for Small Business, did strongly note his reservations.

“The Earned Sick Time Expansion Bill did not come before the Committee on Small Business. However, businesses around the city and their advocates have approached me to express their concerns about this bill. Although I am a co-sponsor, I feel I would be remiss if I did not reference those concerns in explaining my vote,” he said on the City Council floor prior to the vote.

“The small businesses that have reached out to me, particularly those in my district, have legitimate complaints about the Department of Small Business’ problematic track record with outreach to businesses generally, and to small businesses, in particular. So they worry that the requirements of this law will not be timely and thoroughly communicated & that they will not be supported in setting up and maintaining the record keeping systems the law demands. I share this worry,” he added .

Cornegy said in the past small businesses have suffered when the Department of Consumer has imposed duplicative and punitive fines against them. They worry that this bill’s inclusion of a proactive investigative power for the enforcing agency will lead to more aggressive and punitive enforcement, rather than education, he said.

“In the past few weeks, I’ve attended two Civil Service and Labor Committee hearings about the Expanded Earned Sick Time bill. I’m pleased about the changes that were made in response to business concerns; specifically, the inclusion of a 6-month cure period for businesses with less than 20 employees and the reduction of the statute of limitations for filing complaints from three years to two. But I believe there is much more that can and should be done to support small business success, particularly as they adjust to this new legal requirement.

Prior to Wednesday’s vote, Cornegy said he has met with both mom-and-pop shops in his district as a councilman and as chair of the Small Business Committee with larger business organizations such as the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Everybody agrees with the concept, but they also feel at the very least a longer grace period is needed to implement the new law, said Cornegy.

“My concern is there is not enough time for small businesses to disseminate all the information in six months and perhaps it should be extended to nine months or a year with a concentration on doing outreach,” said Cornegy.

Cornegy said, for example, a corner pizza shop does not typically have a human resources department, and may not have the necessary ability to comply with the new laws from a managerial standpoint.

“Everybody wants  their employees taken care of, but I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” said Cornegy, noting that even in his district, where unemployment  remains amongst the highest in the city, it could lead to layoffs.

Still, Cornegy also noted that there was a lot of pressure from the de Blasio Administration to go along with the bill, and he wasn’t sure if this was a battle worth picking at this point with the young administration.

According to the Partnership for New York City, there are 175,000 small businesses with fewer than 20 employees in the city and nearly half of them are owned by immigrants.

Stephen Witt
By Stephen Witt February 27, 2014 15:06 Updated
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