Action Alert: Paid Sick Leave

Restaurant Operators Urged to Act on City of Portland Proposal

[Update: January 18, 2013 - The City of Portland just released language proposed by Commissioner Amanda Fritz on paid sick leave. The City will hold a forum on the topic on January 23, 2013 from 6-8:00 p.m. in the Portland Building, Room C on the 2nd floor, 1120 SW 5th Avenue. Please consider attending this forum to hear more about the ordinance and get your questions answered.]

Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association asks Portland area owner/operators to pay close attention to the City’s paid sick leave proposal. Your participation is imperative. Due to the severity of this issue, we also ask for additional reinforcement from our board members, policy committee members and any businesses that are active in the Portland community.
Please read the proposed sick leave code released January 17, 2013 for more information. Important note: although the proposal allows shift trading, the language could be more specific to ensure employees are not forced to take paid sick leave instead of trade their shifts. If you'd like to contact your City Council, please follow the steps below.

Action steps include:
1. Read the background and suggested talking points below.
2. Contact your Portland City Commission member as soon as possible.
3. Let us know when you're finished.


Health and safety of employees and patrons are paramount to restaurants. The Oregon Health Authority and restaurant operators have formed a strong partnership, and have successfully reduced the risk of consumer illness in Oregon food establishments. The Food Code currently protects against food establishment employees coming to work ill. Oregon just finished the newest version of its food code, and found that Listeria is the largest concern facing future restaurants. Listeria is a hand cleanliness issue, not an employee illness issue. Most restaurants have systems in place to ensure employees do not report to work when sick and provide options to employees who are sick, such as trading shifts.

This is not the right time or right benefit. As an operator, you know better than anyone what your employees are asking for. Is paid sick leave on the top of their list? Wage increases, health care, and paid vacation are all employee requests that employers are struggling to provide during these tough economic times. Those promoting paid sick leave are part of a special interest group moving across the country with good intentions, but they do not directly speak from your employees’ perspective. Unlike other benefits, paid sick leave will most likely be added to part-time and temporary employees, and most of the ordinances only define the accrual basis as “one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked for full-time, part-time and temporary employees in a calendar year.” Further, these ordinances allow employees to carry over 40 hours a year.

Sample script and talking points for your Portland City Council contact:

•    Hello, this is <<name>> with <<business>>. I am calling/emailing to leave a message asking the councilor to please REJECT the proposal to mandate paid sick leave.

•    Portland restaurant owners tend to be smaller than average restaurants in other large cities and the cost to administer and manage employee replacements on short notice under this proposal falls on owner operators, not on a separate human resources person. Employers will face double payments—for both the employee taking sick leave and the employee being called in to cover the shift.

•    Restaurants operate on razor thin margins; it will be extremely difficult to comply with this mandate without being forced to make difficult decisions, given that operators are also faced with wage and health care increases.

•    I do not allow sick employees to work. If sick, employees stay home and pick up additional shifts or trade shifts when they are healthy again, which gives them the opportunity to retain their pay. This is how we handle the circumstance now, and it is not only successful for our operation, but is also popular with my employees. This is why my employees would rather see other benefits provided to them over this proposal.

•    I care about my employees, their health and their well-being, which is why I’m asking you to reject this proposal. Please let employers and employees in each establishment decide what benefits are important and how they want to address the current law that clearly states sick employees are not to work in food service establishments. I will not be able to maintain my current staff if this proposal is adopted.

Contact your City of Portland Commissioners today:

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, 503.823.3008
Commissioner Nick Fish, 503.823.3589
Commissioner Dan Saltzman, 503.823.4151
Commissioner Randy Leonard, 503.823.4682