New York's new law requiring paid sick leave has been in effect, but one former labor leader is concerned workers haven't been able to access the benefits.
And now a state lawmaker and retired labor official in the Capital Region are teaming up to call for a study of the law and how effective it has been.
Frank Natalie is the former business agent for the Local 7 plumbers and steamfitters. Though retired, he's kept up to date on what's happening with workers. And he doesn't like what he's been hearing about current members being denied paid sick leave under a new law.
"A lot of the members were putting in for the sick leave and were being denied for a litany of reasons," Natalie said.
At issue is a new law guaranteeing workers receive paid time off when they call in sick. Natalie is concerned enough with the reports he's earned about the lack of workers receiving the benefits that he's written a letter to state labor officials over the issue. He suspects the issue is a widespread one for workers.
"I believe, through my knowledge and experience, this is pervasive," Natalie said. "If employers are denying one employee their sick leave, they're most likely denying their whole workforce."
The law was put in place as the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading through communities in New York, potentially providing a lifeline for workers who needed the time off with pay.
"It provides a way to say 'I've got a family issue. I need to take some time to go address it for the benefit and welfare of my family,'" Natalie said. "In these unprecedented times and the pressures on our families, these benefits could be very beneficial."
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara is backing legislation that would require the state Department of Labor review the law and how many workers have benefitted. The measure would also seek to determine how many workers have filed complaints over missed benefits.
And then there's the concern that some workers may have simply not heard enough about the sick leave law that's currently in place.
"We see this a lot at the state Capitol where programs, laws are put into place, certain programs are put into place, but getting the information out is the challenging part," Santabarbara said.
Santabara did not rule out taking legislative action based on what the potential review discovers.
"There may things that come out of this where we need to look at it as a legislature," he said. "And maybe some changes or needed here or there or whatever the information shows."