Paid Sick Leave

Paid Sick Leave

City of Portland to Follow San Francisco’s Lead on Employee Benefit


Proponents of paid sick leave asked the City of Portland to draft a rule that follows the San Francisco model. Essentially, the model would require businesses to pay one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked by the employee, regardless of whether the employee is full-time, part-time or temporary. The employee would also have the ability to carry up to 40 hours of paid sick leave over to the next calendar year. Under the proposal, employees will have the ability to use paid sick leave for their own personal illness, ill family members or extended family.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, quick service restaurants in San Francisco employed an average of 15.2 workers per establishment in 2006, the year before the paid sick leave ordinance went into effect.  By 2010 (the most recent data available), quick service restaurants employed only 14.0 workers per establishment, a decline of 7.8 percent.

When the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) met with the paid sick leave advocates, the advocates demonstrated that they understand there are some problems with the San Francisco law.

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 release 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.

Those promoting paid sick leave are part of a group moving across the country with good intentions, but they do not directly speak from the restaurant employees’ perspective. If you ask your employees if they want paid sick days, I am sure they would say yes, but it is not the preferred option when discussing a list of benefits.

Recently a survey was done of restaurants nationally about what paid time benefits were offered in the industry.

Paid vacation (69 percent) is the most common leave offered, with a majority of firms across each of the segments offering it to at least one of their full-time employees.
Twenty-seven percent of restaurant firms offer paid sick leave to at least one of their full-time employees. Corporate-owned chains (55 percent) are the most likely to offer this benefit.

Some operators said they have tried offering paid sick leave in the past, but it was too often abused by their employees, so they eliminated it.

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.

The issue is expected to remain on the front burner in Portland. The biggest concern to most of our members is what will the impact of the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) truly be when it becomes fully implemented in 2014?

This is also to be a major issue statewide during the legislative session that starts in January of 2013. The industry will continue to ask the major cities or the state to hold off on these benefit discussions until after we see what the cost and impact is from the AHCA.

As operators know, it is a bad time to keep adding costs to businesses. Policy makers continue to talk about wanting to add jobs, but then they turn around and make it more expensive to employ people. ORLA will work hard to find some compromise that is more palatable for the industry.  | BILL PERRY