Tag Archives: Department of Consumer Affairs

No Fines for Sick-Leave Complaints

In the nine months since Mayor Bill de Blasio approved an expansion of the paid-sick-leave law, the city has received 289 complaints of violations. But so far, the city is on track to fine only seven of those potential violators, though probably not until 2015.

Of the 289 complaints, 204 are still being investigated or mediated by the Department of Consumer Affairs, according to a spreadsheet provided by the agency. Seventy-eight complaints have been closed, while seven have either resulted in a hearing at DCA’s adjudication tribunal or are currently awaiting a hearing. That’s up from five businesses that were facing fines in October.

Fines for violating the law, which requires businesses with as few as five employees to provide paid time off for workers who are ill or have ill family members, start at $500 and can rise to $750 and $1,000 for repeat offenders. The amount of money the city is spending to investigate and adjudicate the paid-sick-leave law is unclear, although it seems likely to far exceed what it collects in fines. DCA hired 13 employees this year to help with enforcement.

Of the 78 closed complaints, 59 were resolved with the complaining employee recorded as satisfied. Nine complaints were deemed invalid, while another nine were withdrawn by the employee or because the employee was not located. The 289 complaints do not include others deemed irrelevant to the law.

A majority of the complaints—191—were for employers’ failure to notify workers of the paid-sick-leave law. Ninety-three employees complained of not receiving pay for their time off; 49 complained that their employers did not accrue sick time accurately; 38 claimed retaliation by their employers for taking sick time; and 13 said their employers requested a doctor’s note, which the law does not require.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Bill Passed for Employee Transit Tax Benefit

The New York City Council passed a bill Tuesday afternoon to require businesses with 20 or more full-time employees to provide access to a transit tax benefit. The heretofore optional program enables employees to pay for monthly train and bus fares with pretax earnings, potentially saving them hundreds of dollars on annual payroll and income taxes.
Companies, which can also save on payroll taxes but must bear the cost of administering the program, will face fines starting in 2016 unless they can prove hardship.

The transit benefits, typically provided via TransitChek in New York City, are currently used by roughly 1 million New Yorkers. According to its proponents, the new legislation, which now awaits Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature, will provide 450,000 more New Yorkers with access, saving them an average of $443 a year and injecting $50 million into the city economy.

“A monthly MetroCard now costs $112—that’s $1,344 a year,” said Councilman Dan Gardonick, the bill’s author, at a midday rally preceding the council vote. “For many New Yorkers, that is an unavoidable cost.”

While the savings on pretax income are real for employees, the argument that small businesses will save money as well is less certain. A report by transportation group Riders Alliance estimated that the legislation would save businesses $103 a year in taxes for every employee at the median wage level. But that doesn’t take into account that administration of the program must be provided by the businesses, many of which may have to outsource the work.

The legislation creates additional costs in the form of fines for those that fail to abide by the bill. The legislation does allow the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs to exempt businesses that demonstrate that compliance will be a financial hardship.

For critics of the bill, the idea of fining companies for failure to provide a costly program that was created by Congress as an option for businesses is yet another example of de Blasio-era legislation that burdens businesses.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary