Yesterday, April 22, 2020, the New York City Council introduced a broad COVID-19 legislative relief package with measures aimed at protection of tenants, small businesses, the homeless, and essential workers.

Of particular interest for New York City employers is the legislation’s inclusion of an “Essential Workers Bill of Rights,” which includes the following general components:

Premiums for essential workers:  Legislation would require large employers to pay premiums to certain essential non-salaried workers.  The bill requires employers with more than 100 employees to pay hourly workers a premium of $30 for a shift under four hours, $60 for a shift of four to eight hours, and $75 dollars for any shift over eight hours.  The obligation would end when the state of emergency is lifted.

Just cause rights for essential workers:  Legislation would prohibit all hiring parties of essential workers from firing those workers without “just cause.”  “Just cause” is defined in the proposed legislation as “sufficient cause for discharging an essential employee, such as the employee’s failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or employee misconduct that is demonstrably and materially harmful to the essential employer’s business interests.”  This bill is aimed at enabling essential workers to openly identify their concerns on the job or organize with other workers without fear of retaliation.

Paid sick leave for gig workers:  Legislation would extend paid sick leave to independent contractors.  Independent contractors were not included in the paid sick leave bill passed by the New York State Legislature for employees, even if their work is controlled or directed by the company that hires them.

Resolution on misclassification:  According to the council member introducing this resolution, an estimated 850,000 low-paid independent contractors in New York State may be misclassified and should properly be classified as employees.  The contemplated Resolution would urge the State Legislature to put the burden of proof on employers to classify workers as independent contractors.

The legislation was introduced at the Council’s first ever remote Stated Hearing, held via Zoom.  The Council will hold hearings on each of the bills over the next week and a half.  Following those hearings, further committee and full Council votes will be held, after which the legislation will be presented to the Mayor for decision within 30 days.

We will monitor developments on this proposed legislation and report on any developments.


As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice.  For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.