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Mayor de Blasio Seeks to Expand Employment Protections

On January 1, Bill de Blasio was sworn in as Mayor of New York City. In his inaugural address, the former Public Advocate reiterated the egalitarian campaign theme that was successful enough to seize an office held by Republicans for the last 20 years. “When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it. And we will do it.”

De Blasio’s swearing in comes on the heels of controversial employment legislation. In May, the New York City Council passed the Earned Sick Time Act. The Act mandates that employers must provide employees with one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Also included in the Act are non-retaliation provisions and exclusions for construction workers, grocery workers, and employees of the State or City of New York. The Act is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2014, although certain provisions are dependent on the financial state of the City as determined by the Independent Budget Office.

Former Mayor Bloomberg, who vetoed the bill in June, warned that the Act may result in increased costs, reduced hours, and even outright lay-offs. “Employers may also become less willing to hire new employees, as this bill would make hiring them more expensive.” Bloomberg’s veto was overridden by the City Council on June 27.

As Mayor, De Blasio has pledged to expand the Act. “[B]ecause no one should be forced to lose a day’s pay, or even a week’s pay, simply because illness strikes. And by this time next year, fully 300,000 additional New Yorkers will be protected by that law.” De Blasio would also support the creation of a legal services fund to help low-income workers challenge wage theft and workplace violations.

De Blasio is also in favor of an increased minimum wage, perhaps even higher than the $8.75 an hour that will take effect 12/31/2014. His website suggests that “[t]he living wage law should be pegged to increases in the cost of living and cover any large for-profit company receiving $1 million in economic subsidies.” This would require permission from the State, as State law prohibits cities from establishing their own minimum wages. De Blasio will likely seek such a concession. “I will fight in Albany to give NYC the ability to set the minimum wage rate at a level appropriate to our city’s high cost of living.”

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