On Friday, almost 62,000 more workers got the right to stay home when they’re feeling under the weather.
Paid sick leave advocates have been on a roll for the past three years, racking up dozens of legislative victories in cities and states. But until last week, all the activity was concentrated on the country’s coasts.
That changed right before the Memorial Day weekend, when the city council of Minneapolis, Minnesota unanimously passed its own paid sick and safe leave ordinance. It’s the first place in the Midwest to pass a bill.
The city’s law will require businesses with six or more employees to let their workers accrue up to two days of paid leave every year with the ability to roll over unused leave to add up to a cap of 80 hours a year. Smaller businesses will have to let employees accrue unpaid time off. The leave can be used when a worker or a family member gets sick, for medical appointments, or to deal with domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. It goes into effect in July of next year and should reach the approximately 40 percent of city residents who don’t currently get paid sick days.
While Mayor Betsy Hodges (D) has not yet signed it, she called the bill a “landmark” in a statement heralding its passage. “Today, Minneapolis has recognized that no one should have to choose between being healthy and being paid,” the statement declared.
The city’s law is the fourth to be passed so far this year, joining Plainfield, NJ; Spokane, WA; and the state of Vermont. It also marks the 31st law passed in the country since San Francisco became the first a decade ago.
But paid sick leave remains a benefit that many employees can’t rely on. The United States is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee it for all residents. That means that about 40 percent of Americans can’t take a paid day off if they or their family members get sick or if they are experiencing domestic or sexual abuse. Those who make the least are also the least likely to get paid sick and safe leave, despite the fact that they are also the least likely to be able to afford missing a day’s pay.
The Minneapolis Downtown Council released a statement after the bill’s passage saying it is concerned about the cost, a common argument from the business community protesting paid sick leave ordinances. But evidence from cities that have had laws on the books for some time shows that employers haven’t found them costly or difficult to comply with. The vast majority wind up supporting the laws. Meanwhile, job growth remains strong or even stronger.
While Minneapolis passed sick leave, a different worker benefit didn’t get the same support: The council ended up dropping a proposal that would have required employers to give their employees advance notice of schedules. That kind of legislation hasn’t moved as quickly as paid sick leave so far, but San Francisco has a law requiring two weeks’ notice of schedules at large retail chains, while New York has called chaotic scheduling practices into question.