Sick Leave Challenge
Portland Prepares to Push Mandate on Paid Sick Leave.
Supporters of paid sick leave in Portland state that 40 percent of Portland employees do not get paid sick leave benefits, which means a majority of employees already have coverage. So it’s worth repeating that a strong majority of employees are getting this benefit without a government-ordered mandate.
Secondly, the majority of the 40 percent of Portland employees without paid sick leave likely have a compatible alternative. In the hospitality industry, employees often trade shifts so they can ensure they will collect their tip revenue along with their wages. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that the 40 percent of employees without this specific benefit are unhappy with their current benefits package.
Since a vast majority of employees are finding a way to receive compensation when they are sick, why is Portland pushing this now?
The biggest change to employee benefits will occur at the end of the year with the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. As you know, this Act requires employers to offer healthcare, and if they don’t or if employees choose not to accept the benefit, employers will face fines. No one can say for sure what the true impact of this important change will be on small businesses, many of which are already struggling to stay afloat.
Additionally, the next increase in Oregon’s minimum wage will occur on that very same day.
Hospitality and foodservice operators have always tried to find ways, on an individual case-by-case basis, to provide employees with the benefits they prefer. Employee retention has been, and will continue to be, paramount in the hospitality industry. In fact, the practice of shift trading is one of the most vital policies in the industry. Shift trading allows employees to take days off – for illness or personal reasons – and still earn the tips they highly rely on.
The cities of San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Seattle, as well as the state of Connecticut have passed similar mandates, so you can expect Portland to do the same. None of the laws are very workable.
It is ORLA’s understanding is that a work group will be created to look at the applications under this ordinance. Here are a few issues that should be discussed:
1. Seattle includes a provision to allow 180 days of employment before the first sick day is used.
2. Shift trading needs to be an option for any sales positions that earn commissions or tips.
3. The required reporting is difficult and confusing because businesses have employees that travel in and out of the city – sometimes more than once a day. A minimum benefit should be defined, and allow employers to decide whether their employees fall under the minimum or that they exceed it, and therefore qualify for paid sick leave.
4. Remove the private right of action, a legal mechanism for increased penalties, which was also removed in Seattle.
Portland should let employers find solutions that work for their employees. The city has a very diverse business culture, and this proposal affects so many of the businesses in different ways. With healthcare mandates, automatic wage increases at the first of the year, and now paid sick leave, the mixture will certainly create job losses. The question is how many jobs will be lost? | BILL PERRY
BILL PERRY – BPerry@OregonRLA.org