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Sick leave policy heads to council

After a short pause for more review, the proposed citywide sick leave policy heads to the City Council for a hearing this Thursday.

The proposed policy would require almost all employers to offer sick leave to their workers. Commission Amanda Fritz, who is sponsoring the ordinance, delayed the hearing after some businesses complained it was being rushed through the council.

Although the ordinance was reviewed by a task force, few changes were made in the proposed policy. It still requires employers to provide their workers with up to 40 hours off annually, either paid or unpaid, depending on the size of business.

The length of time to for employees to qualify for sick leave was increased from six weeks to 90 days, however.

The policy is support by labor, social justice and health organizations for allowing workers to recover from illnesses without risking their jobs. Some businesses and business organizations say it will increase their costs and reduce their competitiveness against businesses in cities outside of Portland, which will not have similar policies.

The 2013 Oregon Legislature is considering a bill that would create a statewide sick leave policy, but its future is unknown at this time.

If the ordinance passes, the city will contract with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries to enforce it. A fiscal impact statement submitted with the ordinance estimates the enforcement cost at $20,000, but says the confidence in that estimate it “low.” BOLI currently enforces state wage and hour laws.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 3:00 p.m. on March 7. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance the following week.

The ordinance can be read at www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=26997&