A proposal that would require all businesses with at least four employees working in Minneapolis to provide paid sick leave is now in the hands of the Minneapolis City Council.
The issue has been under discussion at City Hall for nearly a year, and focused most recently through a 19-member group of workers, business owners and representatives of business and labor organizations. After three months of work — including 14 public listening sessions — that group presented its recommendation in a council committee meeting Wednesday.
Council members will now spend time studying the details of the plan, which would cover employees who work at least 80 hours in the city each year. Workers would earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum of 48 hours per year. Time could be carried over from year to year, allowing workers to "bank" up to 80 hours of sick leave.
Earned leave could be used when employees or their family members are ill, or as "safe leave" — time off to deal with abuse, stalking or other issues. Employers at all businesses would be prohibited from retaliating against employees who take earned sick time. The ordinance would apply to businesses based in Minneapolis and outside of the city, if they have workers in Minneapolis.
It's not clear how much time the council will take before voting on an ordinance, but Council Member Elizabeth Glidden said there will likely be a vote Friday to direct city officials on the "next steps" for the proposal.
Members of the Workplace Partnership Group told the council they worked hard to balance the many concerns voiced by workers, business owners and community members. They said they found a substantial need for such a policy, with an estimated 42 percent of Minneapolis workers — more than 100,000 people — lacking access to paid sick time.
Liz Doyle, the group's chairwoman, said many people spoke about working while sick because a day without pay could mean going without food. She said children often go to school while sick because their parents can't afford to take unpaid time off, among other public health concerns.
"It really painted a picture of the implications for the city … the economic vitality of the city really extends beyond the individual who needs time off," she said.
Meanwhile, group members said they also heard a strong message from business owners, including some who worry that the costs, administrative burdens and potential for abuse of sick leave could add up to considerable financial hardships. Some of those concerns were included in a dissenting opinion written by the lone group member who voted against the plan: Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Downtown Council.
"Those intended to most benefit may be in fact most disadvantaged if the cost and complexity of business operations in Minneapolis becomes too great and the city becomes a less affordable 'island,' " he wrote.
The Minnesota Restaurant Association and the Minnesota Lodging Association issued a statement arguing that businesses could meet the city's goals for more extensive sick leave voluntarily and that the proposal is too broad in its scope.
Group leaders said that's part of the reason they exempted very small businesses from a paid sick leave requirement and recommended a long implementation period to help get businesses up to speed. The proposal recommends a six-month delay between passage of an ordinance and enforcement of the new rules. Businesses with 24 or fewer employees would get an additional six months on top of the first delay.
Some council members, including Cam Gordon, Lisa Bender and Jacob Frey, said they were supportive of many elements of the proposal. Bender said she's taken note that small businesses want more support from the city, and intends to work with other officials to take "concrete action" to provide more help. "I want to say I have heard that loud and clear," she said.
It's unclear which city officials or departments would be responsible for administering a sick-leave policy, or how many staff members it would require.
St. Paul is in the early stages of researching and considering a sick-leave ordinance.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who introduced the sick leave idea in her State of the City speech last April, said the issue is a critical one for the city to tackle.
"This is one of the most important policy considerations we will make as a leadership team in our four years together," she told council members Wednesday.
Erin Golden • 612-673-4790
How much sick leave?
The proposal would provide sick leave for everyone who works at least 80 hours per year in the city at a business with at least four employees. Sick leave would be earned at one hour per 30 hours worked and capped at 48 hours annually, with the ability to carry over unused hours each year, up to an 80-hour limit.
How sick leave plan shakes out
Here’s how the leave policy would look annually for employees, based on their weekly hours:
Full-time (40 hours/week) 48 hours, or 6 days
Half-time (20 hours/week) About 35 hours, or 4½ days
Part-time (10 hours/week) About 17 hours, or 2 days