Albany County Sick Leave Bill Shortchanges Union Employees

Add Albany County (NY) to your PSL-watch list. The County’s Paid Sick Leave Act was introduced in March and referred to the Legislature’s Law Committee.

The bill shortchanges union-represented employees through what I call the “comparable benefit fiction.” That section of the bill allows an employer and union to deny bargaining unit employees all of the benefits and protections of the PSL law by giving them a “comparable benefit.” One of the listed examples of a comparable benefit” is “holiday and Sunday time pay at a premium rate.”

That premium time on holidays and Sunday is not comparable to paid sick leave is self-evident. Beyond that, the bill does not define “premium rate” (an extra dime an hour?) and does not require that an employee ever be offered the opportunity to earn that premium. It does not even require that the employer be open for business on a holiday or Sunday! While a non-union employee will no longer need to choose between his or her own or a family member’s health and a paycheck, because of the comparable benefit fiction, a union-represented employee may need to continue making that choice.

The New York City Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance and the Westchester County (NY) PSL bill have the same provision. Given that unions are strong advocates of PSL laws and that New York State has the largest percent of union-represented workers of any state in the country (25.2%), this is inexplicable.  Help me understand that one.

As for the PSL benefit, the Albany bill has the typical PSL architecture: employees accrue one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, to an annual maximum of 72 hours for employers with at least ten employees, lesser and phased-in amounts for smaller employers.