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City Council adopts sick leave policy

Starting next year, workers inside Portland city limits can’t be fired for taking a day off with the flu or staying home with a sick child, and most will get at least a week's paid sick leave.

On Wednesday, Portland City Council unanimously approved a new sick-leave mandate for employers doing business in the city.

The ordinance won’t go into effect until next year, which was designed to pressure state lawmakers to enact a statewide version this legislative session.

Companies, nonprofits and governmental employers with five or fewer employees won’t have to provide paid time off, but could no longer fire workers who phone in ill. Those with six or more employees must offer at least five days’ paid sick leave to full-time workers, though other paid time off benefits may suffice.

An estimated 40 percent of private sector employees in the Portland area lack sick leave, and the rate is much higher among lower-paid workers.

The Portland Business Alliance, the Northwest Grocery Association and the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association opposed the bill. Representatives of the groups argued that it's too costly, will lead to job losses, interferes with collective bargaining and is inappropriate on a citywide level.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who spearheaded the issue through the City Council, acknowledged “there are costs to business from this ordinance.” However, the former nurse said, “Real change does not come without sacrifices.”

Family Forward Oregon, the Oregon Working Families Party and other groups brought the issue to the council, devoting much of last year to grassroots lobbying.

"To me this is a matter of whether we are going to live in a civilized society,” said Commissioner Steve Novick.