Paid Sick Leave on its Way to Albany County?

Gazing into my PSL crystal ball, I see Albany County (NY) becoming the fourth county in the nation to adopt a paid sick leave law. The only question is when it will be adopted. The Law Committee of the County Legislature held a public hearing earlier this week on an amended proposed Albany County Paid Sick Leave Act. The political stars are aligned: the County Executive is a Democrat and Democrats have a roughly a 2-1 majority in the legislature.

While noting in the “legislative intent” that the bill is being implemented “in a manner that is feasible for employers,” the bill includes some of the more pro-employee provisions. For example:

  • Employees accrue PSL time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.
  • Employees of employers with at least 100 employees can accrue up to 72 hours in a 12 month period, one of the largest PSL annual accrual amounts nationwide. Employees of employers with more than five but less than 100 employees can accrue up to 40 hours. Employees carryover their unused time unless the employer pays it out at the end of the period and frontloads the following 12-month period’s allotment.
  • Its definition of “family member” extends beyond a broad definition of family members to include individuals who are akin to family members, including “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
  • PSL time may be used for a litany of reasons. It almost seems that the drafters compiled a list of every reason listed in every other safe and sick leave law nationwide.

The proposed law also shortchanges union-represented employees through what I call the “comparable benefit fiction,”  which allows an employer and union to deny bargaining unit employees all of the benefits and protections of the PSL law by including in their agreement 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 law does not define “premium rate”, does not require that an employee ever be offered the opportunity to earn that premium and does not even require that the employer be open for business on a holiday or Sunday! Help me understand that one.

The “County of Albany” will enforce the law. Employees must file a complaint with the County within one year of when the employee knew or should have known of the alleged violation. An employee  may bring a civil action after 120 days have passed from either the filing or the final County action.

The other three counties to have enacted a PSL law are Montgomery County, MD, Cook County, IL and Westchester County, NY.