Wednesday, March 27, 2013

WORKPLACE | Sick Leave in NYC, CT, NJ



Only about half of U.S.  workers have earned sick days, mostly public-sector workers and employees of large companies.

Fewer than one-third of workers are able to use an earned sick day to care for a sick child. 

Polls suggest that about four out of five Americans believe that paid sick days should be a basic worker’s right, guaranteed by the government. 

With this kind of public support, sick leave has become a battleground topic during the 2013 mayoral election. A law has been proposed in the City Council requiring compensated sick leave for any company employing five or more workers and Speaker Quinn is being pressured to act.

Connecticut: Only Employers of 50 or more workers
One incentive for action is that there is a law requiring paid leave in Connecticut, effective in 2012. However, it is a very timid law, applying only to "service workers", working for employers with a payroll of 50 or more people. The New York City law would apply to employers of five or more people.

The difference between the coverage of the two laws is huge. Using New York State data as a yardstick (see chart in previous post below), going from 50 employees to 5 employees adds 35 percent of workers. Excluding employers of fewer than 50 workers excludes 43 percent of all workers; excluding employers of fewer than 5 excludes 8 percent of workers.

New Jersey: No Mandate
On the other side of New York City, New Jersey has no state law requiring private-sector employers to provide employees with paid or unpaid sick leave.
Larger employers tend to provide it, and the State of New Jersey courts enforce such agreements if written into contracts or employee handbooks. 
But nearly half of workers in New Jersey (cited range of 1.2 to1.5 million workers) do not have the right to a single earned sick day.  By not having earned sick days, these workers are more likely to go to work sick, putting the health of their co-workers and public at risk. 
Public-sector employees, meanwhile, receive 15 days' paid sick leave each year after the first year and may  accumulate sick leave from year to year, with no limitations. 

This led to what was perceived as an abuse of sick leave allowance. School administrators were accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars of sick leave. The state capped the cash they could take out at $15,000. The New Jersey Supreme Court  in 2012 upheld the state government’s right to impose this limit. Deciding the case of The New Jersey Association of School Administrators v. Schundler, the state’s highest court  ruled in a 5-0 decision in 2011:
We conclude that the Legislature had the authority to modify terms and conditions for future contracts for public employment in a manner that did not raise constitutional concerns. 
The President of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, Phil Kirschner, said  in 2011 that mandating paid sick leave for small businesses would have a "serious, negative effect" on them:
Most large firms already provide it, so it really is a small business issue. And most small businesses either can't afford to do it or don't have enough people to cover shifts that need to be covered or perform duties that need to be done. Small companies also tend to be more flexible on these matters, so not providing paid sick days doesn't mean they don't accommodate employees when they're sick.