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New York Boosting Minimum Wage, Sick Leave Benefits in 2021

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The minimum wage is going up in New York, and a new sick leave law is also coming into effect for 2021.

New York is one of 15 states with a paid sick leave law, and workers can use sick leave to recover from an illness themselves, care for a sick family member, or seek help for themselves or a family member for domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking.

About 1.3 million New Yorkers didn't have access to paid sick leave before the law, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, and nearly 1 in 4 workers have reported being fired or threatened with termination for taking sick time.

“No one should have to choose between going to work sick or caring for a sick loved one and not getting a paycheck, especially as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

Employees at most businesses can start using sick days that the new law allowed them to start accruing in September, at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Any unused sick leave has to be carried over to the following year.

Companies with more than 100 employees must provide workers with up to 56 hours — equivalent to seven days — of paid sick leave each year. That decreases to 40 hours — five days — at most companies with five to 99 employees.

Workers at companies with fewer than four employees and net income less than $1 million must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave each year.

And the hourly minimum wage is now $14 an hour in Long Island and Westchester under changes that went into effect Wednesday. The wage in the rest of New York has increased to $12.50, up from $11.80.

New York began phasing in a $15 minimum wage boost statewide in 2016, and New York City reached $15 in 2018 and 2019.

The minimum wage will keep going up each year in the rest of the state until it reaches $15. The state’s labor commissioner will announce the next increase by Oct. 1 at a rate based on the consumer price index.

It's not likely that the minimum wage increases will substantially harm Long Island, Westchester and New York's economic recovery from the global pandemic, according to state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon in a mid-December report. Unemployment rates dropped from an April peak of 15.9% in Long Island and Westchester and 15.4% upstate, to 7.1% and 6.8% in October.

“Before this crisis, we achieved record low unemployment rates while increasing the minimum wage — improving the lives of thousands of New Yorkers — and we will rebuild our economy while continuing to lead the nation in the fight for economic justice," she said. "This investment in our workers once again proves that in New York we believe a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.”

By MARINA VILLENEUVE Associated Press

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