Portland City Council to consider Earned Sick Leave policy January 31st
Informational Forum scheduled for January 23rd
Although an estimated 60% of employees working in Portland are currently provided paid time off when they are ill, up to 40% of Portland’s workers can’t take even a single day off to recover from contagious diseases, accidents, or major surgery. Some are even threatened with losing their job if they don’t show up at work due to illness. This issue is of particular concern during the flu season, and with recent outbreaks of Norwalk virus, with illnesses spreading when people who are sick don’t stay home to recover. But almost everyone gets sick sometimes.
Like minimum wage and safe employment conditions, ideally standards on emergency sick leave would be set by the State Legislature. The Portland City Council adopted a State Legislative Agenda this week that includes asking for statewide Paid Sick Time regulations. In the meantime, I am proposing a local measure that would be implemented for employees working within city boundaries. My proposal will only go into effect if the Legislature fails to adopt standards that are equal or better in safeguarding public health and employee rights. As a retired Registered Nurse, former public school mom, and now Commissioner in charge of wellness for over 5,000 City employees, I believe protected sick leave is an important element of workplace safety and public health.
My proposal would allow employees who work in Portland for more than 240 hours in a year to earn one hour of sick time per 30 hours worked, and then use up to five days of earned sick time per year for specified emergency absences. Employees in businesses with six or more employees would be eligible for paid sick time. Those working in businesses with five or fewer employees would not be paid for time off due to sickness, but they would have the right to use their earned sick leave without fear of retribution.
The proposed Ordinance and Code are posted here.
I will host an informational forum next Wednesday, January 23, from 6 – 8 p.m. in the PortlandBuilding, Room C on the 2nd floor, 1120 SW 5th Avenue. This event will give an overview of the proposed standards, with an extended question and answer opportunity. It is a public meeting, but for review of the proposal rather than a hearing designed for proponents and opponents to advocate for or against the proposal.
The Council will hold a hearing on the proposed Protected Sick Leave Ordinance and Code on Thursday, January 31st in City Council chambers starting at 2 p.m.
Following that hearing, I will convene a stakeholder Task Force which will meet weekly for three weeks to discuss the details and potentially propose amendments for Council members to consider presenting at the second hearing at the end of February. Following the Council vote, administrative rules used in implementation of the new code will be adopted in collaboration with the City Attorney’s office and the state Bureau of Labor and Industries. If adopted by City Council, the new sick leave standards would then be in effect January 1, 2014.