Nassau Democrats' bill gives paid sick days

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Democrats in the Nassau County Legislature have introduced a bill requiring private sector businesses with 25 or more workers to provide at least five paid sick days annually to employees.

The legislation closely mirrors a bill signed last month by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, which mandates paid sick leave at city businesses with five or more employees.

Nassau businesses are not currently mandated to provide paid sick time to their workers.

"It's a matter of fairness," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), a sponsor of the bill, which was introduced Tuesday. "In 2014, no one should be docked a day's pay for being sick. We want to create a level playing field for middle-class families."

Matt Fernando, a spokesman for the GOP majority in the legislature, said Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) has yet to read the bill but plans to research its implications. Republicans hold an 11-8 majority in the legislature and have not approved Democratic-proposed legislation in recent years.

The "Nassau County Earned Sick Time Act" would provide full- and part-time workers with at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked -- or no more than 40 hours in a calendar year.

Employees would be permitted to take paid time off for a mental or physical ailment; to care for a sick family member; or because a public health emergency closed the business or the school caring for the worker's child.

A doctor's note could be required if an employee misses work for three consecutive days, the bill states.

Existing employees could use the leave immediately while new hires would have to wait 120 days. Unused sick time could be carried over to the following year but would not be paid if an employee leaves the job.

The law would not apply to employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement -- such as unionized county workers -- or to independent contractors, hourly professional employees or workers compensated through scholarships.

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The measure will "foster public health" and increase employee retention and productivity, "furthering the interests of the county's business community," the bill states.

But Matt Cohen, a spokesman for the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, was skeptical.

"We are still reviewing the bill and its implications, but it sounds like another burden being placed on the business community," Cohen said.

The law, which would take effect six months after passage, would be enforced by the county's Health Department.

Employees denied paid sick time would have one year to file a complaint with the department.

Businesses that fail to comply with the law could face a $500 fine for the first violation, $750 for the second and up to $1,000 for a third. It's unclear how many Nassau employers do not provide paid sick leave, but the independent Office of Legislative Budget Review would be required to perform an analysis of the costs and benefits of the bill.

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