St. Paul is on the brink of becoming the second city in Minnesota to require employers to give workers paid sick time, and it is expected to take a more inclusive and worker-friendly approach than its predecessor.
The City Council was scheduled to vote on its paid leave ordinance Wednesday afternoon, but it had to delay the final vote until Sept. 7 after changing the language of an amendment. The procedural holdup follows months of emotional debate among community members for and against the proposal.
But throughout the process, there has been little uncertainty about the ultimate decision. With six of the seven council members signed on as bill sponsors, the mandate is poised to pass.
Minneapolis approved a similar ordinance in May, and in June, Chicago became the second Midwestern city to adopt a sick leave regulation.
The St. Paul rules would apply to businesses and organizations of all sizes. Workers could earn up to 48 hours of sick time per year and carry over hours, with the ability to accrue up to 80 hours at a time.
Minneapolis' ordinance allows for the same amount of sick time, but exempts businesses with five or fewer employees from paying for sick time. Chicago's rule does not exempt small businesses, and it only allows workers to accrue 40 hours a year and carry over 20 per year.
St. Paul also added a provision allowing workers to sue their employer if they felt they had been retaliated against for using sick leave or reporting a sick leave violation.
The worker-friendly ordinance has drawn support from advocacy groups. However, many business owners have said the rules would put financial and administrative strain on companies. They have urged the city to follow Minneapolis' lead and exempt small companies from the paid leave requirements.
While the popularity of some form of paid sick leave is growing among cities — Duluth is now looking into an ordinance — both supporters and opponents said they would rather see the Legislature enact a paid leave law.
"Hopefully, what we see happen here is the best ordinance will be passed statewide. …" said Corinne Horowitz, director of Main Street Alliance of Minnesota, who has advocated for paid leave. "So it's an even playing field and all workers have this protection."