Employee Relations

Paid Leave for Cancer Screenings

The Mandate: Sections 159-b and 159-c of the Civil Service Law provide that any public employee or public officer has a right to take paid leave, of up to four hours per year, for breast cancer screening or for prostate cancer screening. As a result, those covered by these laws have paid leave over and above whatever paid leave may have been granted to them by their employer. The reality is that any employee with accrued sick leave could potentially use such leave to undergo screenings for these types of cancer. Consequently, these laws are unnecessary. Furthermore, this coverage extends to part-time employees. While this class of employees is generally not provided with paid leave, any part-time employee seeking a cancer screening would be able to schedule such outside of normal working hours.

It should be noted that in 2014 the State Legislature considered legislation  (A.9366 / S.7160) that would have expanded the list of eligible cancer screenings to include any type of cancer and would have granted employees up to four hours of leave per cancer screening type, or the cumulative equivalent of two full-time days, whichever is less on an annual basis.

The Cost:  NYCOM estimates that this mandate will cost local governments and school districts (excluding the City of New York) approximately $23 million annually. This number is based on an analysis of data from the NYS Retirement System and assumes that each local government employee took advantage of the 4 hours of paid leave for either breast cancer or prostate cancer screening. With respect to specific municipalities, one mayor with a workforce of approximately 130 employees estimated that these laws will cost $16,000 annually. In addition, a March 12, 2009 Buffalo News article stated “In Erie County, workers took off 2,503 hours the past two years to get screened for breast and prostate cancer. Officials said that worked out to about $51,000 in free time off, some of which had to be made up with other workers getting overtime.”

The Solution:  These statutes are both costly and unnecessary and should be repealed. The State Legislature should recognize that both state and local government employees are permitted to take vacation, sick and personal time for these and other related purposes. Also, NYCOM is aware of no circumstance where a local government employee in New York was denied the opportunity to use his/her accumulated leave for the purpose of cancer screening appointments.