Workers In These Cities Should Soon Be Able To Take A Day Off If They Get Sick


On Monday, San Diego’s city council gave final approval to a bill that would require the city’s employers to offer their full-time workers at least five paid sick days a year. It would also increase the city’s minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017 with automatic increases for inflation after 2019.

On the same day, Eugene, Oregon’s city council passed a paid sick leave law will go into effect next July, barring a successful legal challenge. The city’s employers would have to give workers an hour of paid time off for every 30 they work, with a maximum of 40 hours a year. All businesses and nonprofits will be covered by the law. An estimated 25,000 workers in the city don’t have access to paid sick days.

San Diego’s part-time workers would be able to earn prorated sick days based on how many hours they work. An estimated 279,000 workers will now be able to earn the leave, and the bill doesn’t have any exemptions for certain industries or businesses. An earlier analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that about 433,500 private-sector workers in the city didn’t have any access to paid sick leave.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has said he will veto the bill that guarantees paid sick days and a minimum wage increase, saying that it “puts our job growth in jeopardy and will lead to higher prices and layoffs for San Diego families.” But given that the measure passed six to three and a veto override requires six votes, it’s likely that the city council will override his veto.

Assuming both ordinances eventually become law, the cities would become the ninth and tenth places in the country with a paid sick leave law on the books, joining the cities of Jersey City, NJ; Newark, NJ; New York City; Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, D.C. and the state of Connecticut. But there is no federal guarantee to cover all workers; the United States is the only country out of 22 developed ones that doesn’t ensure that all workers can take a paid day for illness. More than 41 million American workers don’t have access to paid sick leave.

Despite Faulconer’s concern that paid sick leave will hurt job growth, evidence from these other laws shows the opposite. Two different studies of Seattle’s law have found that it didn’t hurt job growth or business growth and that in fact job growth was stronger after it went into effect. The majority of the city’s businesses support it. San Francisco’s business growth increased after its law was implemented and jobs weren’t harmed, while a majority of employers also support it there. In Washington, D.C., the law hasn’t discouraged business owners from opening up or encouraged them to move. And Connecticut’s has come with little to no burden on employers, the majority of whom support it.

San Diego also joins a growing group of states and cities in passing a higher minimum wage. Ten states have passed higher wages since January, with five at or above the $10.10 an hour level being sought by Congressional Democrats and President Obama. None have gone as far as San Diego’s $11.50 an hour, although some cities have topped it, such as Seattle, which passed a $15 minimum wage. Real life evidence again offers comfort to anyone worried that higher wages kill jobs: those whose wages increased at the beginning of the year are experiencing faster job growth, and a study of increases over the past two decades found no evidence of harm to job growth.


On August 18, the San Diego City Council voted to override Mayor Faulconer’s veto, thus passing the country’s ninth paid sick days law as well as a minimum wage increase.