Sick leave law expands

By J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

The City of Eugene is considering a sick leave ordinance modeled on the ordinance Portland passed last year. The proposal was first presented to the Eugene City Council on February 24, 2014 by a coalition including Family Forward Oregon, and the Main Street Alliance of Oregon. During the February 24 meeting, most council members seemed interested in the proposal, but at the second meeting on April 9, at least two councilors expressed concerns about the impact of such an ordinance on businesses.

In response to these concerns, the Council appointed a task force to gather information on the issue. This task force met for the first time on May 9. Members of the task force include United Food and Commercial Workers Staff Director Kevin Billman; Painters Local 1277 Business Representative Pat Smith, who is also Secretary-Treasurer of the Lane, Coos, Curry, Douglas Building Trades Council; Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy; and Eugene City Council members Claire Syrett and Alan Zelenka.

Eugene plans to model its ordinance loosely on Portland’s, under which businesses with six or more employees must allow employees to accrue up to one week of paid sick leave per year. Smaller employers are also required to offer sick leave, but it does not have to be paid. Currently, the City of Eugene does not require employers to offer sick leave in any form, although those with 25 or more employees must follow Oregon Family Leave Act requirements.

A few other cities require paid sick leave – Seattle, New York City, San Francisco and Washington DC. The difference, though, is that Eugene is much smaller than any of these cities, with a proportionally greater number of small to medium sized employers. These employers are less able to absorb the additional cost such a mandate would impose, and can be expected to tighten their spending accordingly. The Bureau of Labor statistics show that such mandates increase labor costs by .9%, which is roughly eight cents per hour at Oregon’s minimum wage.

The task force is scheduled to present a draft ordinance to the Council in mid-June. There is no indication at this time if the council will act on it or postpone action for further study and public comment.

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