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A Better Balance’s 2023 New York State Work-Family Agenda

As advocates for working families in New York, we are proud of New York’s commitment to providing a safe, supportive environment for workers and their families. Our state has been at the forefront when it comes to protecting working families, and we have been proud to help pass worker-protective legislation including the Women’s Equality Agenda, to the landmark paid family leave law, and the statewide paid sick time law.

New York has long been a national leader on work-family issues, but, in the midst of overlapping crises, more action is urgently needed. New York faces multiple health crises, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the MPV outbreak, and the emerging threat of polio; New Yorkers are facing increased economic precarity amidst rising costs-of-living; and workers throughout the country are looking to New York as a safe haven amidst restrictions on abortion and access to comprehensive healthcare across the country. In this environment, it is crucial that New York continue to lead the way.

New York State must prioritize the needs of workers, especially those who are balancing the competing demands of work and care. Workers—especially low-income women of color, LGBTQ+ workers, and all of the workers who are bearing the brunt of these overlapping crises, deserve to live in a state that prioritizes their needs. New York must take immediate action to ensure that the state continues to lead the nation in its commitment to racial and gender justice.

Outlined below are our key priorities to address the needs of working families 2023.

Legislative Priorities

Strengthening and Updating Paid Family and Medical Leave

New York must pass legislation to modernize and update the state’s temporary disability insurance (“TDI”) and paid family leave (“PFL”) program.

  •  TDI, which provides benefits for workers who cannot work due to their own serious, non-work-related medical condition, needs to be improved to provide New Yorkers with paid medical leave that offers full employment protections and benefits that are high enough to be meaningful. The benefit level for TDI has not been raised since 1989 and stands at a maximum of $170 a week. Raising the benefit level and improving the program are long overdue.
  • At the same time, PFL benefits should be updated as well. While PFL provides a meaningful benefit amount, it is still often too low to be workable for low-wage workers. Both PFL and TDI should be updated to adopt a progressive wage replacement rate, ensuring that low-wage workers receive a higher percentage of their wages while on leave.
  • Additionally, it is crucial that PFL benefits be made more portable, ensuring that workers in this changing economy can use the benefits as they move between jobs or face periods of unemployment, especially as ongoing public health crises leave so many unable to access the benefits they have paid for. The state should also ensure that self-employed workers can meaningfully access their right to paid family leave by removing the onerous waiting period.
  • PFL should also be updated to include chosen family among those whom a worker can take time to care for, ensuring that all New Yorkers can care for their loved ones without sacrificing their economic security.
Establishing Fair Disciplinary Policies
  • The Governor should sign A8092B/S1958A, important legislation passed in 2022 that would ensure that workers cannot be subject to discipline for lawful absences, including those related to a known disability, pregnancy-related conditions or protected sick leave where sick time is guaranteed by law.
Supporting Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities
  • The legislature should pass legislation expanding the Human Rights Law’s prohibition on familial status discrimination to encompass all forms of caregiver discrimination, and should consider passing legislation providing caregivers with a right to reasonable accommodations in limited circumstances.

Enforcement & Administrative Priorities

Supporting Paid Sick & Safe Leave
  • The Department of Labor should strongly enforce the New York State paid sick and safe leave law and conduct robust outreach and education to inform workers of their rights.
Supporting Pregnant and Lactating Workers
  • The Department of Human Rights should strengthen its guidance on New York State pregnancy, childbirth and lactation accommodation laws.
Funding Education, Outreach, and Enforcement
  • New York’s Labor, Human Rights, and Workers’ Compensation laws contain many crucial provisions protecting workers from discrimination and exploitation and providing a baseline of labor benefits. Strong outreach and education to ensure that workers are informed of their rights is crucial, as is strong enforcement of these laws to ensure that workers are truly able to access and benefit from these important protections.
  • The Department of Labor, Department of Human Rights, and Workers’ Compensation Board must be robustly funded, so that they have the resources they need to strongly enforce these laws. In addition, these departments must prioritize proactive enforcement that responds to workers’ needs—for instance, the Department of Labor must prioritize enforcement of the newly-enacted Paid Sick Time law and wage theft enforcement, and the Department of Human Rights should fast-track pregnancy, lactation, and disability accommodations complaints as well as familial status discrimination complaints.

Related Key Issues

In addition to our above-described priority issues, we are supporting several important ongoing campaigns:

Ensuring Strong Labor Law Enforcement
  • Pass the EmPIRE Act to create a whistleblower cause of action that empowers workers to combat labor law violations
Combatting Worker Misclassification
  • Pass the Employer Accountability Act to ensure that employers cannot evade labor protections by misclassifying their workers as independent contractors.
Ensuring Fair Pay for Home Care
  • Pass the Fair Pay for Home Care Act to ensure that home care workers are paid an equitable wage and end the sector’s labor shortage, enabling older New Yorkers and New Yorkers with disabilities to live safely at home
Ending the Subminimum Minimum Wage
  • Pass legislation ending the subminimum wage in all tipped industries—including restaurant workers, who have been forced out of the industry in droves since the
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