New York City Business Groups Ill Over Paid Sick Days

September 4, 2009

Opposition is slowly building among groups worried that a New York City Council bill requiring companies to provide employees with as many as nine paid sick days per year would place a burden on small businesses.

Earlier this week, the Manhattan and Staten Island chambers of commerce sent an online survey to members to find out where they stand on the proposal, which would compel businesses with 10 or more employees to provide nine paid sick days, and those with fewer than 10 workers to give five. Fines would be levied at a rate of $1,000 per violation.

New York’s other borough chambers are expected to send out similar surveys after Labor Day.

The surveys are a precursor to an organized opposition campaign by the city’s chambers. A meeting is set for next week in which the groups are expected to come up with a plan of attack against the bill.

“I’ve gotten some responses back to our survey and almost everybody opposes the bill,” said Staten Island Chamber of Commerce president Linda Baran. “They feel it’s just another thing they have to contend with at a time the business climate in the city is getting worse and worse.”

And, although most of its members provide paid sick days and wouldn’t be affected by the legislation, the Partnership for New York City has expressed concern over the measure. A spokesman said the proposal would add to the costs of small businesses at a time when they are already stretched to the limit.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has indicated a willingness to support paid sick days for large firms, but has stopped short of embracing the mandate for small ones.

Supporters of the bill point to successes with paid sick days in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and argue it will level the playing field among businesses, helping them in the long run.

“Paid sick days are often smart business,” says a spokesman for the Working Families Party. “Studies show that when workers come to work sick, they can slow productivity, infect their co-workers, and are even more likely to cause workplace accidents.”

Some 35 council members have already signed on to the legislation, which has been spearheaded by Councilwoman Gale Brewer, D-Manhattan, giving it enough support to withstand a veto should the mayor determine the measure to be too onerous for small businesses.

Filed by Daniel Massey of Crain’s New York Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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