Some workers across the city rejoiced on Wednesday when the New York City Council passed paid sick leave legislation – but restaurant workers were not celebrating. The paid sick leave bill requires businesses with 20 or more workers to offer them five paid sick days starting April 1, 2014. Workers can use paid sick days if they need medical care, a close family member needs medical care, or the worker’s place of business or their child’s day care is closed for a public health emergency.
The law is not that simple to use for shift workers in restaurants, including servers and busboys, who may not have the same access to paid sick days.
A compromise reached in the last few weeks may make it harder for restaurant workers to earn and use their paid sick days. For example, busboys and servers cannot use paid sick days if they have to miss shifts they have volunteered to work. They can only use paid sick days for shifts they were assigned by their employer. If a server volunteers to take over a shift from someone else, but has to miss it, they cannot use a paid sick day. Also, if waiters take a paid sick day, they will be paid their base rate- no overtime, and definitely no tips.
Restaurant Opportunities Centers-United (ROC United) argue that many waiters, waitresses and busboys pick up extra shifts to survive, and this law makes them miss those shifts if they are sick. The law also includes a provision in the bill allowing employees, with the mutual consent of their employers, to choose to make up the hours they miss instead of taking sick days. They can make up the hours before or after the event. ROC United expects that employers will manipulate this to avoid paying sick time to their employees.
Employers and employees in the restaurant industry should stay tuned to see how they can use paid sick days.