Plan would require Seattle firms to provide paid sick days
All businesses in Seattle would be required to provide their workers with paid sick days, according to a legislation City Councilmember Nick Licata plans to introduce Wednesday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
All businesses in Seattle would be required to provide their workers with paid sick days, according to a proposal by City Councilmember Nick Licata.
The legislation — to be discussed at a council committee meeting Wednesday — calls for a sliding scale, with smaller businesses obligated to set aside less time and larger companies required to set aside more.
"This is not a slam dunk, but momentum's on our side," Licata said.
Several prominent small-business owners, such as Cupcake Royale's Jody Hall and The 5 Point Cafe's David Meinert, said they were initially skeptical of a paid sick-leave mandate, but not anymore. Business, labor and community leaders met for weeks to propose changes to Licata's original plan that would make it more amenable to small-business owners.
Two council members — Sally Clark and Jean Godden — joined Licata at the Tuesday announcement, as did Mayor Mike McGinn.
McGinn said he supported the legislation.
"This is a public-health and safety issue. People should not have to go to work sick," McGinn said.
Under the bill, the number of mandated paid sick days would increase with the size of the business:
• A business with 1 to 49 full-time employees would have to provide up to five days of paid sick leave in a year.
• A business with 50 to 249 full-time employees would have to provide up to seven days in a year.
• A business with 250 or more full-time employees would have to provide up to nine days in a year.
• Businesses with more than 1,000 employees would have to provide one hour of paid leave — which might include vacation time — for every 15 hours worked, with at least half the time available for paid sick time.
There would be a wait period before workers could start using their accrued paid sick time. At businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the wait would be 180 days. At larger companies, it would be 90 days.
A number of provisions are intended to provide flexibility for small-business owners, such as allowing workers to swap shifts rather than take paid sick leave. If employers already offer paid time off that equals or exceeds the hours outlined in the sick-leave ordinance, then the paid time off would count as paid sick leave.
Marilyn Watkins, an economist and spokeswoman for the Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce, estimates that about 190,000 workers do not receive paid sick leave in Seattle.
Watkins said that what made Seattle unusual was the early involvement of the local business community in shaping the proposal.
Watkins and the Economic Opportunity Institute, a policy think tank, published a report in May supporting a mandatory sick-leave law for Seattle. The report shows that workers in the lowest 10th percentile of wages are much less likely to receive paid sick leave.
If the City Council were to pass the law, it would take effect a year later. Workers would have to wait another three to six months before they could start using the paid sick leave, Licata said.
Seattle would be among the first cities in the country with mandated paid sick leave, after Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.
Philadelphia's City Council passed a similar ordinance last week and is waiting for the mayor to sign it into law. Also, a group in Denver is collecting signatures to place a paid sick-leave initiative on the November ballot.
Earlier this month, the Connecticut state Legislature approved a statewide sick leave law.
Licata said he hoped to have a proposal out of the Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee and before the full council by August. A group of Seattle businesses still opposes any law that would force employers to pay for sick leave, according to David Black, legislative director for the Seattle Society for Human Resource Management.
"Any kind of imposed paid sick leave is going to cause a negative impact on business," he said.
J.B. Wogan: 206-464-2206 or email@example.com
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