Bond, Schoeneck & King Statement Regarding NYS Dept. of Labor Litigation: Seeking Accountability from State Officials for NY Employers

January 5, 2024

On Jan. 3, 2024, Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, filed an Article 78 proceeding against the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) on a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) claim. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of New York employers, is intended to hold the DOL accountable for its position on the application of the New York Paid Sick Leave (PSL) statute to employers with unionized workforces.

In January 2021, when the New York Paid Sick Leave statute, N.Y. Lab Law §196-b, became effective, the DOL publicly adopted the position that, consistent with the Legislative intent, the State would not immediately enforce the PSL requirements against employers whose employees were represented by a labor union with an existing collective bargaining agreement (CBA), so as not to disturb existing bargained-for sick leave provisions and to allow unions and employers time to integrate the new statutory requirements into their labor contracts in the next round of negotiations. Our firm, as well as numerous employer associations and labor unions, communicated with State officials and reported the DOL’s position recognizing the inviolability of the CBA, and asserting no intent to disrupt these agreements by requiring that they be reopened and renegotiated mid-term to address paid sick leave. Unfortunately, the DOL later reversed course and brought claims against unionized employers despite its prior assurances.

Yet, in response to Bond’s FOIL request, the DOL claims not to have a single document addressed to this highly charged issue. Further, the DOL has unlawfully failed to provide records of complaints, decisions and settlement agreements pertaining to the subsequent interpretation and enforcement of the PSL law against unionized employers.

In the best interests of our clients and other New York employers, Bond has commenced this State-court action to vindicate the public right of access to records of the DOL’s actions, and its communications with constituents, other State officials and third parties, on this important issue of labor relations policy and statutory enforcement. We look forward to a just and proper disclosure of the relevant State records.