Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal
Two city councilors plan to propose a new ordinance that would require employers with 50 or more workers to provide them with up to 40 hours of paid sick leave a year.
Council President Ken Sanchez, a Democrat, and Councilor Don Harris, a Republican, announced their intention to introduce the ordinance in a news release late Thursday.
“I think this bill represents a fair and equitable balance between the needs of employees and the needs of businesses,” Sanchez said in the release. “Sick leave is critical to the health of our workforce, but it has got to be done in a way that doesn’t hurt the very businesses that provide the jobs in the first place.”
He called the ordinance being introduced “an excellent starting point for a much longer discussion.”
The proposal comes 10 weeks after voters narrowly rejected a sick leave ballot initiative that many Albuquerque business owners and groups warned would impose onerous regulations and hurt the local economy. The so-called Healthy Workforce Ordinance was defeated by fewer than 800 votes in the Oct. 3 municipal election.
Unlike the ordinance that was voted down, the proposed sick leave ordinance wouldn’t apply to businesses with fewer than 50 employees, nor would it apply to temporary workers. It also leaves out the “rebuttable presumption” that any adverse action against an employee taken within 90 days of the employee being out sick is retaliation.
“I think it’s important for the city that councilors and the business community and the people representing working families (come) together on a bill that’s going to protect employees and the economy,” Harris told the Journal.
Elizabeth Wagoner, with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said in a statement that she had not yet seen the proposed ordinance, “but we look forward to the conversation.” Wagoner was one of the primary proponents of the defeated sick leave initiative.
“Any proposed law must cover all Albuquerque workers, not just a small fraction,” she added. “Everyone gets sick, and everyone needs the right to earn sick leave to care for themselves and their families.”
The new bill will be introduced during Monday’s City Council meeting and will then likely be referred to the council’s Finance & Government Operations Committee.
“I don’t expect (the bill) to sail through without amendments,” Harris said.
In the release, Harris said the Healthy Workforce Ordinance would have been harmful to Albuquerque businesses if it had been approved by voters, but he added that “it’s clear that Albuquerque’s citizens want action on sick leave.”
“The City Council needs to be proactive to ensure that any sick leave ordinance protects employees but also provides employers with a predictable and realistic process to administer,” he added.
Under the proposed ordinance:
• One hour of paid sick leave would be provided for each 40 hours worked by an employee, up to a maximum of 40 sick leave hours per calendar year.
• Employees would be able to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave they have earned to the next calendar year.
• Workers would be allowed to use their sick leave for medical care for themselves, their spouses or family, or if the employee is a victim of family violence.
• Employees would be able to begin using earned sick leave after working 720 hours.
• Employees who work an average of at least 20 hours a week would be covered.
• Employers that already have an existing sick leave/paid time off program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the ordinance would be exempt.
• Any collective bargaining agreement effective before Jan. 1, 2019, wouldn’t be affected.
Mayor Tim Keller’s office said he had not seen the proposed ordinance.
“The sponsors failed to notify the Mayor’s Office before the proposed ordinance was released,” said Alicia Manzano, Keller’s interim communications director. “We will review the legislation to give it the careful consideration it deserves.”