It sounds reasonable enough: You don't feel well so you call in sick and take the day off. Unfortunately, until today, many New York City employers didn't have to pay you. They do now.
Under New York City's new paid sick-leave law, all companies with at least five employees are now required to provide each worker with up to five days of paid sick leave each year. Employers with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid sick leave.
Several U.S. states have enacted similar laws or are working on providing workers with more paid sick leave, but the New York law is fairly far-reaching in its scope as any employees who work more than 80 hours a year in the city can earn up to 40 hours of sick leave each year to be used to care for themselves or for a family member.
As far as making sure employers are aware of the new law, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's office has taken multiple measures and is using every medium available to spread the simple message: If you're sick, stay home.
The mayor recently sent out over 400,000 letters to employers, has run several TV and radio ads and has blanketed the city with leaflets, in 25 languages, including Spanish, Russian and Yiddish, explaining employees' rights.
"This finally gives people the rights that so many others have enjoyed," explained de Blasio. "Which is to take that time to get well and not lose pay in the process -- a little more economic security when so many New Yorkers are troubled."
The issue of paid sick leave is gaining steam around the U.S. as several other cities passed laws similar to New York's this week. City councils in San Diego, Ca., and Eugene, Or., passed new laws mandating paid sick leave for businesses there.
Policies similar to the law in New York City are also already in place in the state of Connecticut as well as cities such as San Francisco, Washington D.C., Seattle and Jersey City, N.J. According to a summary tracking efforts across the country from the National Partnership for Women and Families, a Paid Sick Leave Act for New York state was introduced in the Senate and the Assembly in January 2013 and then referred to the Labor Committee in both houses. That referral was renewed this January.
However, despite this trend toward mandatory paid sick leave, a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute claims some 40 million Americans, almost 40 percent of the private-sector workforce, currently don't have paid sick leave. Nearly two-thirds of that group are at the bottom 25 percent of the pay scale, representing the country's lowest earners, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
With regard to unpaid sick leave, the U.S. Department of Labor explains that currently there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave. For companies subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, the act does require unpaid sick leave. FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical situations for either the employee or a member of the employee's immediate family. In many instances, paid leave may be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave.