It’s a debate that’s rattled Colorado, New Jersey and Washington.
Now it’s Albuquerque’s turn.
Supporters of a proposal called the “Healthy Workforce Ordinance” say they hope this fall to make Albuquerque the first city in the state to require that employers offer paid sick leave to their workers.
About two dozen cities and five states require employers to provide paid sick time to their employees or have passed laws to do so. The states include California and Connecticut. The cities include Chicago; Jersey City, N.J.; Pittsburgh; and Tacoma, Wash. Voters in Denver rejected a sick leave bill in 2011.
To help educate businesses and the public about the negative implications of this Ordinance, a group of business organizations called the Coalition for a Healthy Economy, is speaking out in opposition of the Ordinance. Coalition members include: the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Albuquerque Economic Forum, Apartment Association of New Mexico, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Associated General Contractors New Mexico, American Subcontractors Association of New Mexico, Commercial Association of Realtors New Mexico, Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors, Home Builders of Central New Mexico, NAIOP, New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, New Mexico Restaurant Association and New Mexico Utility Contractors Association.
Carlo Lucero, CEO of Sparkle Maintenance and chair of the Chamber's retail/service Sector Advocacy Team stressed the employer-liability created by the Ordinance. "The Paid Sick Leave ordinance seems like a no-brainer to many people who believe that workers should have the right to paid time off if they become sick," he said. "Unfortunately, the reality is that this mandate will be squarely on the back of businesses to pay for this new benefit. In order to pay for these mandates, business survival dictates that businesses will hire fewer employees and reduce hours. The money has to come from somewhere. Our economy will not improve by imposing more mandates on small business.”
Passage of the Ordinance could also mean that businesses with existing PTO programs may have to re-write their policies in order to exceed or meet the bill’s outlined requirements.
“If this ordinance is passed, we wouldn't be able to provide a PTO day at all, we'd have to rewrite our entire policy," said Terri Cole of the Chamber's one-day-per month PTO policy. "We think that it's entirely appropriate to have the discussion and to come up with a reasonable sick leave plan," said Cole.
What you need to know about how it would work
• All employers in Albuquerque would have to comply, no matter their size, if they have “physical premises” within the city. State government would be exempt.
• Any employee who works seven days or more in one year would be entitled to earn sick leave. That includes part-time, seasonal and temporary workers.
• An employee would earn at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
• Employees at large businesses – 40 or more workers – could use up to seven sick days a year, if they’ve earned that much. At smaller employers, they could get five days.
• The paid sick leave could be used by the employees to care for themselves or a sick family member, or for absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
• The employer could require the employee to provide documentation if the person uses three or more sick days in a row. The employer, however, would have to pay the worker’s out-of-pocket expenses if obtaining the documentation costs money. The employer would have to keep the documentation confidential.
• Employers could offer more generous benefits than those required.
• The ordinance would establish a “rebuttable presumption of a violation” if the employer takes action against someone who has exercised their rights under the ordinance or alleged a violation of their rights within the last 90 days.
• There is a debate over whether the ordinance would eliminate “paid time off” plans and require separate sick-leave accounting.
• The city attorney’s office would be charged with enforcing the law and employees could file their own lawsuits.
• Employers would need to keep track of earned sick time for every employee and keep the records for four years.
So there it is, the concepts that will take effect should the ordinance pass. On October 3, go vote, let your voice be heard. This will affect every small business, and how deep the effects will be felt is still unknown.
To find your polling place, visit: http://where2vote.unm.edu/