Seattle Law Mandates Paid Sick Leave
Ruby de Luna
Chin: "So the first hour of the presentation is really going to give you an overview of what is Paid Sick and Safe Time."
The city's Office for Civil Rights held several workshops like this one at a Columbia City restaurant. Michael Chin is the department's enforcement manager. He tells the audience of business owners, managers, and employees he understands there's a lot of information to learn. He says incorporating the law can be challenging, but the city will provide technical assistance.
Chin: "If you guys have questions about hey, this is our existing policy how can we actually be in compliance with this new ordinance, we're here to help you guys. We're here to provide as much information as possible."
The ordinance allows employees to get paid time off if they're sick or to care for a family member. The law also applies to workers dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence, assault or stalking.
Business owner Al Davis came to the workshop to learn more about the law. He and his wife own a flower shop across the street. They have three employees, and one who works on occasion. He hadn't heard about the new law until recently.
Davis: "And I was assuming that I was going to have to do it. But in reality I give my employees bonuses anyway with the thought that when they take the money and they take time off, they'd have the bonus money to cover time off."
It turns out the law may not affect Davis. His business doesn't meet the minimum requirement. The ordinance covers businesses with at least five employees. They can be full time, part time or temporary workers, and they have to work more than 240 hours in a calendar year.
Seattle's paid sick leave was passed last year. Some business owners complained the law would be costly, especially at a time when many are struggling to stay financially afloat. The new law exempts new businesses for the first two years.
Another concern was how to deal with employees who work in multiple cities. Under the law, employers must count all workers including those who work inside as well as outside of Seattle. But the leave policy only covers those who work in Seattle.
Karen Stutesman is in charge of human resources for Tutta Bella. The restaurant employs 170 people in four locations. Stutesman says the company decided to extend the new benefit to all employees whether they work in Seattle or Issaquah.
Stutesman: "Oh yeah, we're so close and people sometimes will work in between restaurants. I think morale–wise, it wouldn't be what we do anyhow. We never try to kind of carve out one section and say, I'm sorry, you're not going to get it."
The workshop is meant to help businesses make the transition as smoothly as possible. Michael Chin of the office for civil rights says they still plan to continue their outreach efforts after the law takes effect September 1.
Chin: "And for the next two to three months, we're going to focus on how employers can be in compliance, and how employees know about their rights."
Chin says even the city has to comply with its own rules. He says city departments that employ temporary workers will offer paid sick leave.
I'm Ruby de Luna, KUOW News.
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