As soon as this fall, Albuquerque could be the first city in the state to mandate that employers provide all employees with paid sick leave. Supporters of the so-called "Healthy Workforce Ordinance" turned in the required number of petition signatures to the city clerk's office earlier this week for vetting. This means that come November, the Ordinance could be on the general election ballot and voter approval of the issue would be bad for businesses in the city.
To help educate businesses and the public about the negative implications of this Ordinance, a group of business organizations called the Coalition for a Healthy Economy, is speaking out in opposition of the Ordinance. Coalition members include: the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, Albuquerque Economic Forum, Apartment Association of New Mexico, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Associated General Contractors New Mexico, American Subcontractors Association of New Mexico, Commercial Association of Realtors New Mexico, Greater Albuquerque Association of Realtors, Home Builders of Central New Mexico, NAIOP, New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry, New Mexico Restaurant Association and New Mexico Utility Contractors Association.
Carlo Lucero, CEO of Sparkle Maintenance and chair of the Chamber's retail/service Sector Advocacy Team stressed the employer-liability created by the Ordinance. "The Paid Sick Leave ordinance seems like a no-brainer to many people who believe that workers should have the right to paid time off if they become sick," he said. "Unfortunately, the reality is that this mandate will be squarely on the back of businesses to pay for this new benefit. In order to pay for these mandates, business survival dictates that businesses will hire fewer employees and reduce hours. The money has to come from somewhere. Our economy will not improve by imposing more mandates on small business.”
Passage of the Ordinance could also mean that businesses with existing PTO programs may have to re-write their policies in order to exceed or meet the bill’s outlined requirements.
“If this ordinance is passed, we wouldn't be able to provide a PTO day at all, we'd have to rewrite our entire policy," said Terri Cole of the Chamber's one-day-per month PTO policy. "We think that it's entirely appropriate to have the discussion and to come up with a reasonable sick leave plan," said Cole in an interview with KOAT.
Sunday's Albuquerque Journal featured both an article and an OPED penned by the Coalition which presented the organizations' shared views on the impact of the Ordinance. Click HERE to read the full Ordinance.
What you need to know about how it would work
• All employers in Albuquerque would have to comply, no matter their size, if they have “physical premises” within the city. State government would be exempt.
• Any employee who works seven days or more in one year would be entitled to earn sick leave. That includes part-time, seasonal and temporary workers.
• An employee would earn at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
• Employees at large businesses – 40 or more workers – could use up to seven sick days a year, if they’ve earned that much. At smaller employers, they could get five days.
• The paid sick leave could be used by the employees to care for themselves or a sick family member, or for absences related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
• The employer could require the employee to provide documentation if the person uses three or more sick days in a row. The employer, however, would have to pay the worker’s out-of-pocket expenses if obtaining the documentation costs money. The employer would have to keep the documentation confidential.
• Employers could offer more generous benefits than those required.
• The ordinance would establish a “rebuttable presumption of a violation” if the employer takes action against someone who has exercised their rights under the ordinance or alleged a violation of their rights within the last 90 days.
• There is a debate over whether the ordinance would eliminate “paid time off” plans and require separate sick-leave accounting.
• The city attorney’s office would be charged with enforcing the law and employees could file their own lawsuits.
• Employers would need to keep track of earned sick time for every employee and keep the records for four years.