Benefits to Employers of NYC Earned Sick Time Act Have Not Materialized

If you are not familiar with Miles’ Law, let me introduce you to Rufus Miles. Miles, a federal employee in the 1950’s whose job involved reviewing budgets submitted by agencies, had a change in perspective about the budget review process when he moved to a position in which he needed to submit a budget for review. He moved from the reviewer to the reviewee, so to speak. “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” he supposedly observed and that has become his eponymous law.

A recent study of the first two years of the New York City Earned Sick Time Act concluded that “the effects of the paid sick days law on the business operations of New York City employers were far more modest than opponents had feared.”  Thus, the title of the study: “No Big Deal: The Impact of New York City’s Paid Sick Days Law on Employers.” It is a 32 page study, with charts and graphs, done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research of The City University of New York, and is well worth a read.

Like Miles, let’s have a change of perspective. Did the New York City Earned Sick Leave law deliver to employers the benefits its proponents touted?

The preamble of the NYC law states that the law will “foster greater employee retention and productivity” and reduce the number of employees reporting to work sick.17220-illustration-of-the-statue-of-liberty-pv-no-3

Concerning employee retention, the study found that “[v]irtually no employers reported any change in turnover.”

On productivity, the study observed that more than 94 percent of employers reported that “the paid sick days law had no effect on business’ productivity, while two percent of them reported that productivity increased. Only four percent of our respondents reported that productivity decreased.”

On reducing the number of sick employees reporting to work, the study found that “[m]ost employers (92 percent) reported no change in the spread of illness in the workplace, while nearly seven percent reported that the spread of illness decreased. Fully 90 percent of employer respondents reported no change in the number of employees coming to work sick, with equal numbers (five percent) reporting a decrease and an increase.” In other words, those that were asking customers, figuratively, “flu with your fries,” are still doing so.

The study does not report the ineluctable conclusion that the Earned Sick Time Act has not delivered to employers the benefits they were supposed to realize from it. Not a single one.

As my long time readers know, I am not opposed to paid sick days. Everyone gets sick from time to time. The challenge is that we now have forty jurisdictions and forty different laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. The compliance challenge for multi-location employers is significant.  We could also do without exaggerating the benefits of these laws to employers. While the sound bites sound good, those benefits have not materialized, at least not according to “No Big Deal,” and that is a big deal.