A vote on a citywide sick-leave ordinance in Minneapolis could occur as soon as the end of this month — and the measure appears to have the support of much of the City Council.

Thursday, after more than a year of discussion and debate, the council had its first meeting to review a proposed ordinance that would require most Minneapolis employers to provide employees with up to 48 hours of paid sick leave each year. The proposal mirrors much of a recommendation drafted earlier this year by the Workplace Partnership Group, a 19-member panel of workers, business owners and representatives from business and labor organizations.

Approving an ordinance will require several more steps — a public hearing May 18, an additional special committee meeting May 26 and a final council vote May 27. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect July 1, 2017. At Thursday’s committee meeting, some council members said they still see room for debate over proposed exemptions to the ordinance and the enforcement process.

But they also said that it appears the differences will be minor, and that the council is likely ready to approve paid sick leave in Minneapolis.

“I think the level of detail of the questions that we were asking today indicates the high level of consensus that we have on the big directions of this policy,” Council Member Lisa Bender said.

The ordinance would apply to all businesses with at least six employees in Minneapolis. Employees would be eligible to earn paid sick leave if they work at least 80 hours in Minneapolis for a single business within a calendar year. Workers could earn one hour of leave per 30 hours worked, and carry over unused time each year, up to a cap of 80 hours of leave in a given year.

Employees at businesses with fewer than six employees would be entitled to unpaid sick leave.

Who should be exempt?

The ordinance exempts employees of the federal, state, or local governments other than Minneapolis, because the city does not have jurisdiction over other governments. The proposal also exempts construction workers who are paid the prevailing wage rate — as defined by state law — for all work, along with construction apprentices, as well as health care workers who are considered “casual” employees.

Those exemptions could be removed by the council, and some council members said they intend to try to broaden the ordinance’s reach.

Others said the ordinance will need to be clarified to ensure that workers have the right to challenge their employers and appeal to the state. The proposal calls for the city’s Civil Rights department to handle complaints and, if necessary, investigation of possible violations.

Council Member Jacob Frey said the city might have to expand its staff to ensure complaints would be addressed.

“The situation we don’t want to get into is having a very large number of complaints being submitted, [with] our staff’s inability to enforce those determinations, but then have no private right of action for an individual to have their grievance,” he said.

Employers would be required to retain records of employees’ hours for three years, give the city access to those records and maintain confidentiality rules about employees’ health information. Violations could result in a $1,500 penalty, plus administrative fines.

Praise and concerns

Advocates for sick leave, including Mayor Betsy Hodges and the groups Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, TakeAction Minnesota, SEIU, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) and faith group ISAIAH, issued statements Thursday expressing support for the proposal.

Hodges’ statement said 42 percent of workers in Minneapolis lack access to sick leave, many of them people of color. She said 63 percent of white workers in Minneapolis have sick time, while only 32 percent of Latino workers have similar benefits.

“We are on the verge of enacting a policy that will improve public health for everyone and provide greater opportunity for low-income families, and listening and collaborating has gotten us there,” she said.

At least one coalition of business leaders, however, said the ordinance could create problems for Minneapolis’ economy.

In a statement from the Workforce Fairness Coalition, Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce Interim President John Stanoch said the ordinance “does not go far enough” to address businesses’ concerns.

“The vast majority of employers already have personnel policies and practices tailored to the needs of their business and valued employees,” he said. “This is a far-reaching approach with the potential for unintended consequences to Minneapolis’ economy.”