Big Business Tries To Stop Florida Paid Sick Days Initiative Before It Even Reaches Ballot

Residents of Orange County, Florida, are trying to get an initiative on the November ballot that would require all businesses with more than 15 employees to provide paid sick days to their workers. Predictably, big businesses are joining forces and working hard to stop it.

More signatures are still needed before the Earned Sick Time for Employees initiative qualifies for the ballot. But even before the signatures could have been gathered, businesses in Orlando filed a legal complaint asking a court to issue an injunction against the proposal.

It’s not the first move by Orange County businesses to block this initiative. The Orlando Sentinel has uncovered several memos and opposition plans to try to combat the paid sick leave program.

This time, though, businesses are using the courts to try get their way. They claim that it isn’t clear whether charities, churches, and non-profits will be required to participate in the paid sick leave requirement. But those leading the paid sick days effort say that it is obvious that all those groups will be included:

“The petition leads voters to believe that its proposed ordinance will impose its sick-leave requirement only on businesses, which is far from true,” said Jacob Stuart, president of the Central Florida Partnership, adding that it would also apply to groups such as churches, charities and nonprofit hospitals.

Stephanie Porta, one of the activists leading the sick-time push, said the ballot language is not misleading and does not imply that employers such as religious, nonprofit and civic groups would be left out.

“This initiative has undergone thorough legal scrutiny, and we have had no objections raised by the County Commission or the Supervisor of Elections or anyone else,” Porta said. “Turning to the courts to slow down this effort is nothing more than a stalling tactic designed to stop Orange County voters from strengthening our local economy and providing stability to workers.”

Businesses are likely pointing to this specific issue because they think that paid sick leave will be less popular if people believe churches and non-profits are not exempt. But paid sick leave is hugely advantageous to employees and especially low-wage workers. And it’s beneficial to businesses in the long run, too. When workers don’t feel they have to come in sick, they don’t spread their illness to others. Plus, workers who take time off can recover more quickly and are thus more efficient.