Private colleges have joined local business owners in voicing concerns about St. Paul’s proposed sick-leave ordinance.
The ordinance, which is advancing to the City Council after a unanimous vote of approval by a city commission on Tuesday, would require employers to allow workers to accrue paid sick time.
Universities do not want to pay for sick leave for part-time student workers and are seeking an exemption from the proposed rule. Doug Hennes, with the University of St. Thomas, said school officials will be talking with the mayor and city leaders in hopes of changing the regulations before the City Council’s final vote next month.
The university estimated that it would cost the school $425,000 in the upcoming school year, if student workers sought every hour of sick-leave pay for which they were eligible. That additional cost could force St. Thomas to raise tuition by 2.2 percent, Hennes said.
Other colleges, including St. Catherine University and Hamline University, also told the city that the ordinance could result in tuition increases.
The rules would not apply to public colleges, such as Metropolitan State University, as the draft ordinance exempts employers that are part of the state of Minnesota.
City Council President Russ Stark said that the ordinance as approved by the Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission on Tuesday night is a “starting point” and that council members are having a lot of meetings and getting feedback on potential changes. They hope to make revisions to the document by Aug. 3, so people will have a couple of weeks to digest the changes before a public hearing on the ordinance Aug. 17, Stark said.
As written, the city’s ordinance for paid sick leave would allow employees, after putting in an initial 80 hours, to start earning one hour off for every 30 hours worked. They could use the time off to care for themselves or a family member. Workers also could use the time if they are dealing with a safety issue, such as stalking or domestic violence.
The primary goals of the sick-leave ordinance are straightforward: protect public health and safety. But employers have said implementation of the rules would be complex.
“It’s being presented as an easy fix,” but likely would be complicated and expensive for employers, said Michael Sarafolean, president of Orion Corporation of Minnesota. Sarafolean said that he is not opposed to sick and safe leave but that the city is taking a “one size fits all” approach that would hurt businesses.
Orion provides residential care and support to people with intellectual disabilities across the state, he said, and he would have to navigate different regulations in different cities. “This is just further complicating our staffing needs,” he said.
He was one of many community members who responded to a recent city survey about the ordinance. Others wrote in support of the proposal, including many nurses who said that sick leave would help protect public health and that it would prevent people from having to choose between getting paid and getting better.
No exceptions in Mpls.
St. Paul is following Minneapolis, which recently approved a similar sick-leave ordinance. The two sets of rules differ on some points. Minneapolis exempted companies with fewer than six employees from providing paid leave. St. Paul’s draft would apply to anyone with one or more employees. And St. Paul, unlike Minneapolis, would allow workers to sue their employers to force them to comply with the ordinance.
But, like St. Paul’s draft ordinance, Minneapolis did not grant exceptions for private colleges and universities or student work-study jobs.
“The ordinance was meant to be pretty inclusive with a general recognition that all types of employees get sick and need sick leave,” Nuria Rivera-Vandermyde, Minneapolis’ deputy city coordinator, said in an e-mail.