Business interests ask for delay in new sick leave law 

The Chamber of Commerce has asked for a delay in implementing a new law that requires businesses to offer paid sick leave — the first of its kind in the nation — as merchants and The City race to make sense of the law.

The ordinance, which becomes effective Feb. 5, was passed by 61 percent of voters in November. It requires employers with fewer than 10 workers to offer as many as five paid sick days per year per employee and larger employers to offer up to nine days per year. The worker gains days based on the formula that for every 30 hours worked, one hour of paid sick leave is accrued.

Because the law goes into effect just 90 days after it was approved and it was put on the ballot without a Board of Supervisors hearing, many business owners are just learning of the law and what is going to be required of them. The City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, the agency that will enforce the law, is also still figuring out parts of the legislation.

The paid sick leave ordinance comes at a time when businesses are also gearing up for when they have to begin paying into The City’s universal health care program.

Business owners offered several questions during a more than hourlong hearing about the law before the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee on Thursday.

Questions left unanswered during the hearing included whether taxi drivers were covered by the law, if a paid sick day for a waiter only includes the hourly rate or tips as well, and what is the value of a paid sick day for someone who works on a commission.

Kevin Wallace, of Wallace Remodeling, wondered what would happen if the employee was not really sick. "I suspect there is a lot of abuse, cocktail flu on Mondays, things like that. I just want to know if I can just say no." Wallace said.

It appears, however, that businesses will have some flexibility when it comes to enforcement. "We’re very reasonable and we want to work with employers to ensure compliance," said Donna Levitt, head of OLSE.

"The problem with this legislation is that a trigger of 90 days was too quick, it was too quick for The City to get the information out," said Jim Lazarus, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. Lazarus requested the Board of Supervisors vote to delay implementation of the ordinance.

SupervisorSean Elsbernd said it probably would not be legal for the board to delay implementation. The ballot measure allows for the board to make amendments to the implementation and enforcement of the ordinance, but not to substantive requirements.

Nick Watter, an employee at a local grocery store and a member of Young Workers United, said he did not see a problem in implementation. "A lot of this stuff is kind of easy to work out," he said.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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