A similar bill introduced by Brad Lander did not receive a full council vote in 2020 or 2021, when he was a council member representing Brooklyn. Lander is now the city controller.
The state Department of Labor defines independent contractors as workers who provide services and are in business for themselves. These workers are generally free from the supervision and direction of managers while on the job and have a different tax and wage status than traditional employees.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that many essential workers, who are not included in the initial paid sick leave mandate, truly deserve more from this city,” Hanif said. “We live in a time of unprecedented complex health issues…and it is absolutely essential that we are committed to ensuring the safe health care of all workers.”
Hanif’s bill would affect a broad class of workers who qualify as independent contractors, including those in the “gig economy,” which include Lyft and Uber drivers and rider-drivers. Hanif’s bill also affects taxi drivers, nail salon workers, construction workers and home helpers.
His office estimates that 140,000 workers would be affected. Employers would be responsible for funding paid sick days, she said.
Hanif said the bill would exclude real estate brokers and insurance agents, or those who offer professional services, such as interior designers, and freelancers such as copywriters and graphic designers.
Kathy Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, noted that independent contractor roles go far beyond the gig economy and many are not full-time jobs.
Wylde said the legislation could require employers to adjust their pay scales to reflect the cost of mandatory paid sick leave. She noted that there was no guarantee independent contractors would support the bill, as the legislation would put their freedom to work at risk.
But the bill has already received support from Los Deliveristas Unidos, a group representing New York City app deliverers; the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy organization for broader workers’ rights; and the Association of Legal Aid Lawyers, a union of legal and social service workers.
Hanif said she always had conversations about which work sectors to include or exclude.
Jessica Walker, CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, worries the council is introducing legislation without fully understanding how harmful the policies are to employers. She pointed to a bill introduced in July by Manhattan City Councilwoman Gale Brewer that would make it easier for employees to pursue lawsuits for violations of the Earned Sick Time Act. Brewer’s bill has four co-sponsors, so far, and has been referred to the Civil Service and Labor Committee.
“These are ideas that sound great without any analysis of what it would mean for small businesses and their ability to retain employees and keep their doors open,” Walker said. “We need to consider the consequences of these bills before they are passed.”
Employers could face new responsibilities and costs under the bill.
If passed, the measure would assume that anyone hired by a company is an employee under the Sick and Safety Time Act unless the employer can prove otherwise, expert Bryn Goodman said. in labor law at Fox Rothschild.
“Already, the lines between independent contractor and employee may be blurred and fact-specific. This will likely create further confusion,” Goodman said.