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NYC’s paid-vacation proposal drums up controversy

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Two months after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for mandating two weeks of paid vacation for virtually all employees of foodservice operations and other businesses in the city, warnings about the effect are sounding far and wide.

A media report in Washington, D.C., earlier this week noted that the measure, widely believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, would cost New York City employers about $1.67 billion annually. For a business employing 10 people at an average wage of $20 per hour, the cost would be $16,000 annually, according to the Washington Examiner story.

De Blasio predicted the measure would provide about 200,000 full- and part-time restaurant and hotel workers in the city with their first paid vacations. No other industry would have as many employees affected, according to the mayor’s figures. He hopes to require the benefit from every business with at least five people on its payroll.

The proposal was a focus of the New York City Hospitality Alliance’s annual State of the Industry conference on Wednesday. Executive Director Andrew Rigie cited the initiative as an example of why operating restaurants in the city has become so difficult.

“What I’m hearing more than ever, often many times a day, over and over, are the new demands of the labor management landscape,” Rigie told attendees. The group represents restaurants, hotels and bars in the five boroughs of New York City. 

He noted that de Blasio’s proposal for paid vacations follows the recent adoption of an expanded paid leave mandate. That measure entitles employees who have logged at least 120 days of employment at a business with five people on the payroll to five days of paid leave for illnesses or other extraordinary family developments, such as an adoption.

Rigie reeled off a number of other recent employer mandates that have been adopted by the city, including a new rule that prohibits businesses from declining to hire employees because of their hairstyles. Asking employees to change their hairstyles will also be regarded as an act of prejudice going forward, the New York City Commission on Human Rights announced.

Meanwhile, members of the City Council have proposed legislation that would ban quick-service restaurants from firing employees without a stated and acceptable due cause, and to lay off people in reverse order of seniority when cutbacks are warranted.

De Blasio’s vacation proposal is widely believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, a distinction trumpeted by the mayor himself.

“Every other major nation recognizes the necessity of paid personal time,” de Blasio said in a statement, using his euphemism for vacation time. “We as a country must get there, and New York City will lead the way.”

“Here in New York City, we are one of the leading jurisdictions in creating the right to sick leave, which we then expanded last year to broaden the definition of family and to add safe leave for victims of domestic and sexual abuse,” said Lorelei Salas, commissioner of the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.Today, we yet again pave the path towards a new generation of workers’ rights.”

At least 10 states now require paid sick leave or paid family leave.

De Blasio, a Democrat, is believed to be a weighing a run for his party’s presidential nomination for the 2020 elections.

He aired his paid vacation proposal on Jan. 9. The measure has yet to be formally introduced as a legislative proposal to the New York City Council, whose approval would be required for the measure to become law.

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