The Business Council of Westchester yesterday hosted a very productive and interactive “working session” with leaders of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, focusing specifically on details of the Earned Paid Sick Leave bill that the board hopes to pass this year.
Held at the BCW offices in Rye Brook, the discussion brought together a diverse group of business leaders from throughout Westchester, representing companies both big and small from a variety of industries. Legislator Catherine Borgia, who introduced the bill, led the session and was joined by Board Chairman Benjamin Boykin and Legislator Catherine Parker.
“Roughly 36 percent of workers in Westchester County don’t have paid sick time,” Borgia said, noting that people who work directly with the public in service industries as well as home healthcare workers are least likely to have the benefit. “We did a lot of research into this. This is not something that has come up lightly. It’s something that people understand as a human need, and something that is good for business as well.”
The Earned Paid Sick Leave bill would apply to businesses with five or more employees. It would allow employees to accrue a minimum of one hour of earned paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, entitling employees to use up to 40 hours of paid sick time a year.
Paid sick leave could be used for both physical and mental illness, as well as if an employee needs to take care of a sick family member – with family being broadly defined. The legislation would apply to both full-time and part-time employees so long as they work a minimum of 80 hours in a year in Westchester County.
BCW leaders raised several issues with the bill. Many expressed concerns that doing business in New York is already expensive, and that it is getting harder and harder to compete with neighboring counties and states. They added that the proposed legislation would bring additional burdens of cost, time and administrative headaches.
Most around the table also agreed that the potential for abusing the law was high – and would be costly. Other owners spoke out about the “law of unintended consequences” and “mission creep” – meaning, if this bill passes, what’s coming next?
The roundtable came at the end of a very busy week for the Board of Legislators. On Monday evening, the board unanimously approved by a vote of 16-0 legislation that prohibits employers from inquiring about salary history during the hiring process. County Executive George Latimer promptly signed the Wage History Anti-Discrimination act the following day.
Separately, on Monday, Latimer signed an Executive Order prohibiting Westchester County Government from inquiring about past convictions during the initial application process for employment. At the signing, Borgia praised the “Fair Chance to Work” order, saying she plans to reintroduce similar legislation that would extend the policy to cover hiring procedures throughout the county.
The leadership of both the BCW and the board concluded the two-hour roundtable by thanking each other for such a constructive session, saying the doors are always open and the dialogue will certainly continue.
“Our goal is to make sure that our members’ voices and concerns are heard by legislators who are drafting legislation that will have an immediate impact on businesses on a daily basis,” said BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon. “We will continue to hold these roundtable sessions to review any legislation that has a direct impact on Westchester’s business community.”