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August 12, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Seattle's sick-leave bill gets business-friendly changes

Posted by Beth Kaiman

From Staff Reporter J.B. Wogan:

A proposal to require most employers in Seattle to pay workers for time they miss sick will come before the full council Sept. 12.

The council's human services committee has voted 4-0 for a revision of the bill they had been discussing for weeks.

In an interview the day before the Wednesday vote, the bill's sponsor, Councilmember Nick Licata, said the changes were designed to ease the proposed law's impacts on the business community.

"I know we probably haven't moved as far as some people would have liked," Licata said on the day of the vote. "On the other hand, we may have moved too far away from other folks."

City Council President Richard Conlin was present for the meeting, but abstained from voting because he wanted to make some amendments to the bill before voting on it, he said.

He supported the goal of providing Seattle workers with sick pay, but "also maintaining the economic vitality of the business and nonprofit community," he said.

The revised bill still mandates a paid-sick days benefit for businesses in Seattle on a sliding scale, with bigger business providing more days. Seattle would be one of the first cities to have a paid-sick-days mandate, after San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Among significant changes in the substitute bill:
- "Micro businesses" with the equivalent of four or fewer full-time employees do not have to comply with the mandate

- Workers at the largest businesses cannot use paid-sick time until they have worked for 180 days. A previous draft allowed workers to use paid-sick time after 90 days if the business had the equivalent of 250 or more full-time employees.

- For employees who work in Seattle occasionally, the sick-pay mandate would only apply if the employee works more than 120 days a year in the city. This was changed from 80 days in the original draft.

- College students on work study would not get paid-sick leave, even if they would otherwise qualify.

- If a worker without health insurance has to provide documentation for being sick, businesses must pay half of the costs of obtaining documentation; in the original, the largest businesses had to pay 100 percent.

Read the full text of the substitute bill.

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