NYC Proposal for Paid Vacation Prompts Debate

March 4, 2019 Updated: March 4, 2019

NEW YORK —A debate over whether New York City should make a pioneering move to require paid vacation has both sides saying, “Give me a break.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio wants New York to become the first place in the 50 states to make private businesses provide time off with pay. He casts the idea, which is awaiting City Council action, as a next frontier in workers’ rights.

His plan resonates with people like Barbara Vasquez, a former Manhattan retail worker who says she’s struggled with health problems that exhausted any sick leave she accrued as a part-timer.

The 25-year-old likes working and needed the money, but she said she quit after a little over a year to nurture her health.

“Paid vacations would have helped,” said Vasquez. “I actually think I would have been a much better employee because I wouldn’t have been so burned out.”

But some city-based small-business owners say paid vacation would pile on pressures after minimum wage increases and a paid sick leave requirement in recent years. Under the Democratic mayor’s proposal, most businesses would have to give full-time workers at least 10 paid vacation days a year, pro-rated for part-timers, besides sick time.

“I would love to be able to provide vacation time to my employees … but the reality of it is not whether or not we want to give it—it’s whether we can give it,” said Dawn Casale, the founder of One Girl Cookies, a Brooklyn bakery with three retail shops and about 40 employees. They get paid time off after five years, or if they’re managers; others can arrange unpaid vacation, she said.

Casale says she’s not against the mayor’s proposal but feels the city needs to help small businesses make ends meet, perhaps by helping them negotiate health insurance as a group.

“You can’t weather every storm,” said Casale, adding that she stopped searching for a fourth location because she doesn’t find the city conducive to expanding her business.

Many countries require paid vacation, as does the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. But labor law experts aren’t aware of any similar laws within U.S. states.

Still, about three-quarters of private-sector workers had the benefit as of 2017, the latest federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. Federal employees and most state and local government workers also get paid time off.

By Jennifer Peltz

Recommended