March 27, 2013 at 14:36 PM EDT
Biz looks to weaken sick-leave impact
Small business leaders are now in damage control mode. With Council Speaker Christine Quinn hammering out paid-sick leave legislation with supporters, small business chambers of commerce are now trying to win concessions in hopes of making the final potential legislation more palatable. That represents a shift: For years, business leaders have said any bill would be unacceptable. Now, in a sign of the bill's momentum, they're scrambling to get the best deal possible, with chances of its passage gaining steam. "The reality is that we've been against the bill, and we continue to be against the bill," said Nancy Ploeger, president of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, "but we also know there are real discussions going on right now with the speaker, and we want to make our positions known." According to Ms. Ploeger, who has served as a spokeswoman for the five borough chambers on the issue, there are three main areas small business leaders find most onerous. One is the current provision that would require all businesses with more than five employees to offer at least five days of paid leave. Instead, Ms. Ploeger said she is pushing for the law to apply only to businesses with more than 50 employees, which would mirror Connecticut's law passed in 2011. Also, Ms. Ploeger noted that the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires only businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance. "If it's good enough for Barack Obama to define small business that way, it's good enough here," said Ms. Ploeger. Already, the paid leave bill has been amended to exclude businesses with fewer than five employees, although they would have the right to take unpaid sick leave. Many paid-sick leave supporters are unwilling to give further ground on this issue. Second, Ms. Ploeger is looking to strip a provision entirely from the bill that would allow employees to sue if they are not paid for a sick day within 18 months. Businesses complain that this would cause unwarranted litigation. Proponents of the bill have already reduced the time from three years in the original legislation. Finally, Ms. Ploeger said businesses leaders are lobbying for enforcement powers for the legislation to be removed from the Department of Health, arguing that the department is not suited for the job. Ms. Ploeger declined to elaborate on alternative solutions she said business leaders have offered Ms. Quinn. Proponents of the bill say the Department of Health is the best option because no Department of Labor exists for New York City, only at the state level. Backers of the bill have been pushing the legislation for three years, but Ms. Quinn has not allowed it to be voted on in the City Council, citing a fragile business climate and problems with the legislation.
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