Epstein on Paid Sick Leave Statutes

Down With Paid Sick Leave
Richard A. Epstein
Defining Ideas
April 16, 2013

As I wrote in my Defining Ideas column last week, the condition of the labor markets remains perilous. Even though the nominal jobless rate has declined by a tenth of a percent, the sharp reduction in labor market participation gives a clear indication of the ever-decreasing fraction of Americans who are able to find steady work. My recommendation was, and is, that the only way to revive these markets is to remove the barriers to entry created by government regulation.

Today’s army of activist groups is not focused on restoring jobs, however. The hot-ticket item in the current labor market disputes is legislative mandates for paid sick leave. The unintended consequence of paid-sick leave legislation, whether in New York City or elsewhere, will be to block the creation of new jobs by limiting the deals that employers and employees are lawfully allowed to make with each other.

Proponents of paid sick leave argue that a worker of marginal means should never be put into a position whereby he can only take care of himself or his family by risking the loss of a day’s wages or indeed his job. This theme resonates with politicians. Connecticut’s paid sick leave statute has been in place since January 1, 2012, and it now looks as though the New York City Council will overcome the sensible resistance of Mayor Michael Bloomberg to enact a program of its own, which would cover perhaps a million New York City workers.

Faculty: 
Richard A. Epstein