St. Paul has rolled out a proposed set of rules that, if approved, would mandate that all private employers allow their staff members to earn sick time — and would force businesses to pay up if they did not comply.
The city released a draft sick leave ordinance on Thursday and is asking people to weigh in by July 15. The document could change before the City Council votes on it in August, as residents and members of the business community air concerns.
“It will probably have a different form,” Council Member Rebecca Noecker said, noting that the evolution of the ordinance is a good thing. “We’ve had lots of time for lots of people to give this thought, and, ultimately, that’s how you get to the best policy.”
The draft ordinance is based on recommendations from a city-appointed task force that included employers, labor representatives and advocates for sick leave. Many of the group’s suggestions ended up in the draft document. For instance, the ordinance would require that all employers, no matter how small their businesses, allow employees to start earning sick time after 80 hours of work. Employees would then accrue one hour for every 30 hours worked and could earn up to 48 hours in a year. That is the same rate outlined in Minneapolis’ ordinance, which the city passed in May.
The task force, however, did not detail how the ordinance should be enforced. It left that up to government officials and the city’s Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission, said Rose Roach, who co-chaired the task force.
In the draft ordinance, it says the city’s Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity would be responsible for enforcement and would investigate complaints about employers violating the ordinance.
A business owner found to be in violation of the ordinance could be ordered to reinstate workers and give them back pay. The employer could face additional fines. Employees would be able bring an action against their employer in court.
The proposed ordinance would require employers to retain three years of records showing each employees’ hours worked and sick time used. The human rights department would have access to that information.
The city likely would not investigate claims by businesses that employees were abusing the sick time ordinance, said Alex Dumke, spokesman for the human rights department.
Community members can respond to the proposed ordinance by visiting the earned sick and safe time page on the city’s website at tinyurl.com/sick-safe.
If the City Council approves the ordinance, the city expects to enact it on July 1, 2017, for businesses employing 24 or more people. Businesses with fewer employees would have to comply starting on Jan. 1, 2018.
Jessie Van Berkel • 612-673-4649