Think L.A.’s minimum-wage hike that kicks in July 1 is all set? Think again.

A major fight is now brewing over whether the law passed in May should be amended to include a mandate that all employers in the city provide additional days of paid sick leave above and beyond the three days already required under state law. Predictably, business groups are expressing alarm.

This bombshell landed on March 18, in an innocuous document titled “Follow Up Policy Elements for a Citywide Minimum Wage” from Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Officer Sharon Tso. The report was issued in response to a City Council directive to examine the merits of “compensated and uncompensated time off.” Local unions had pushed for a paid sick-leave mandate to be included in the original minimum-wage law, but the council voted last year to defer that provision.

The report outlines four options for an expanded paid sick-leave mandate for City Council members to ponder: a straight-up requirement for employers to provide a certain number of additional paid sick days; combining illness, vacation, and personal days into a “total compensated time off” provision as in the city’s hotel worker minimum-wage ordinance; looking at similar policies already enacted in cities such as Oakland, San Francisco, and Santa Monica; or some combination of these.

The city could also opt to just let the state law for three days of paid sick leave apply.

The report was taken up by the council’s Economic Development Committee on March 22. Business groups immediately expressed concerns, chief among them the release of the report just four days before the committee could decide to vote on which option the city should pursue.

Typical of the responses was that of the California Restaurant Association:

“This rushed process has provided the restaurant industry essentially one business day to review the recommendations and little opportunity to understand the potential impacts on our industry or discuss with our members,” Matthew Sutton, the CRA’s vice president of government affairs and public policy, wrote in testimony submitted to the committee.

Sutton went on to oppose in principle any additional paid sick leave mandate beyond the three days a year already required by state law. He said that when a worker calls in sick, another worker must be called in to fill that shift; if the sick leave is a paid benefit, that’s tantamount to paying two workers to work the same shift.


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