Changes sought for paid leave bill - Albuquerque Journal

Changes sought for paid leave bill

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Business groups battling Bernalillo County’s paid leave proposal are pushing for significant changes to the bill ahead of Tuesday’s vote, asking that the law exempt smaller employers and require an administrative review before cases wind up in court.

NAIOP, the commercial real estate development association, sent county commissioners a 10-point letter outlining suggested edits, and several other industry groups are advocating for similar changes.

The letter follows months of debate and discussion on the legislation that Commissioners Maggie Hart Stebbins and Debbie O’Malley introduced in May.

Although the proposed law would affect only businesses in the unincorporated areas of Bernalillo County, such as the East Mountains and the South Valley, it has stirred strong opposition from many business advocacy organizations.

NAIOP President Lynne Andersen said that’s partly because the county may be setting a precedent: She suspects any policy it adopts might be replicated in other jurisdictions, such as Albuquerque.

“I think it’s very likely that this or a very similar bill will be before the city, so we wanted to get it right at this point,” she said.

Bernalillo County’s proposal would require all businesses with at least two employees to offer one hour of paid time off to all employees for every 32 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours a year. It would exempt companies in their first year.

Although originally drafted as a paid sick leave bill, a June amendment changed it to a general paid time off proposal that Hart Stebbins said better aligns with modern workplace benefit tracking and was in response to comments from the business community.

The commission chairwoman said Thursday that she remains open to additional feedback and called some of the NAIOP letter’s points “well-founded.”

“I think we are very sincere in our statements that we continue to accept input into this ordinance from all parties, all interested stakeholders,” Hart Stebbins said. “This is valuable; it is great to have something in writing that gives specific concerns and suggestions.”

Andersen’s letter asks the commission to establish a mandatory administrative process so that alleged offenses are addressed at the county level before a lawsuit can be filed.

It requests limiting the law’s application to bigger businesses – calling it more “logical” to restrict such a mandate to companies with at least 50 employees – and urges coverage restrictions so employers would not have to provide paid leave to part-time, temporary or seasonal workers.

The letter outlines several other objections, saying the bill’s current language would not permit an employer to deny a request for time off – something it suggests carried over from the bill’s original language as a sick leave proposal.

“Under this ordinance, an employee could use paid leave to go golfing on a day where they are critical in the creation of a product for a customer,” the coalition writes of the bill’s current language.

But Hart Stebbins disputes that reading. She says employers would be empowered to set the process for requesting leave, although they would be prohibited from requiring advance notice for leave related to illness or emergencies.

Any commissioner can propose amendments before Tuesday’s vote. Hart Stebbins said that she has not drafted any yet but that she will further explore a possible administrative hearing process and look into some of the letter’s specific concerns.

However, she said she does not intend to increase the size of businesses for which the law would apply, saying that the proposed 50-worker threshold “would exempt most Bernalillo County businesses.”

Although many business associations have fought the bill since it was initially introduced as a paid sick leave proposal, many other organizations have voiced support.

At the June public hearing on the bill, about 50 people made public comments – roughly half speaking in favor and half against.

Groups backing the bill include the AARP, Equality New Mexico and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

Stephanie Welch, supervising attorney for workers’ rights for the Center on Law and Poverty, disagrees with many of the NAIOP requests, saying that workers who file complaints should be able to file a lawsuit without waiting for a county administrative process that may be “overburdened.” Putting the mandate only on companies with at least 50 workers would render it almost meaningless, she said, because most area businesses have fewer than 50 employees.

“Everyone can be healthier and recover more quickly and reduce the spread of disease if people, when they get sick, can stay home,” she said.

The Bernalillo County Commission is scheduled to vote on the paid leave proposal Tuesday and will start the meeting at 4 p.m., an hour earlier than usual.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


Interim superintendent of police reform to retire
ABQnews Seeker
After about eight months on the ... After about eight months on the job, Interim Superintendent of Police Reform Sylvester Stanley intends to retire at the year's end. Stanley was appointed ...
Suspect charged in attempt to rob West Side bank
ABQnews Seeker
Man tells police he 'just wanted ... Man tells police he 'just wanted to send a message'
Estancia mayor reviews town's 'legally armed' rule
ABQnews Seeker
Residents were required to have weapons ... Residents were required to have weapons to attend town board meetings
Person critically injured after being hit by ABQ bus ...
ABQnews Seeker
A person is in critical condition ... A person is in critical condition after being struck by the driver of a city bus Wednesday night in Northeast Albuquerque. Daren DeAguero, an ...
Isleta officer charged in rape of suspect
ABQnews Seeker
Woman had been arrested for DWI Woman had been arrested for DWI
Council race winner asks to be sworn in
2021 city election
Asserts he is eligible to take ... Asserts he is eligible to take seat over rival's appointment
Health officials cautiously optimistic despite high case rates
ABQnews Seeker
State epidemiologist says lack of information ... State epidemiologist says lack of information on omicron an issue, but calls v
Report: Oil, gas tax revenue hits record $5.3 billion
ABQnews Seeker
Industry's critical contribution to budget noted, ... Industry's critical contribution to budget noted, even as climate-related regulations are imposed
Rio Arriba Sheriff Lujan guilty of 2 felonies
ABQnews Seeker
James Lujan remained free pending a ... James Lujan remained free pending a sentencing hearing Thursday