Legislation introduced late last month by Seattle Councilmember Nick Licata that would require businesses to provide workers with a minimum number of paid sick days faces some opposition.
On July 5, the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that studies minimum wage job trends, warned that the proposed law would cause layoffs.
In a statement released to the media, EPI research fellow Michael Saltsman cited a survey taken in San Francisco after it passed a similar law four years ago.
"Close to 30 percent of low-wage employees reported layoffs or reduced hours at their place of work after passage of the paid sick leave mandate," Saltsman said.
Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce had lobbied for duplicating the San Francisco law, which allows workers to accrue seven to nine sick days, depending on a company's size. Licata's legislation breaks that into four sizes, requiring five sick days at firms with up to 50 workers, seven at firms up to 250 workers, and nine at firms with more than 250 workers.
Companies that employ more than 1,000 people and already offer paid time off must meet or beat an accrual rate of one paid hour for every 15 hours worked.
Workers can use the time for themselves, to take care of a family member or to address domestic violence, sexual abuse or stalking, said Alex Stone, a spokesperson for the Economic Opportunity Institute, which supports the proposed law. Unlike the San Francisco model, he said new employees must wait 90 to 180 days before they can use any sick leave. Smaller companies can also let employees trade shifts rather than paying for sick time.
Natasha West-Baker, a Safeway grocery cashier, said she needs paid sick days. The 35-year-old mother of three spent two years homeless, so she's grateful for her job and the $18.70 an hour she earns from it. But Safeway doesn't pay for the first three days an employee is out sick. One unpaid sick day costs West-Baker $100, she said.
A committee session on the legislation is planned for 2 p.m., July 13.