Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Sick in San Francisco

The paid sick leave ball is back in City Council's court now where it may collapse with a sick thud following Mayor Nutter's veto Tuesday. The measure narrowly passed with nine votes on June 16, and it would take 12 votes to overcome his veto. Advocates promise they'll work to make that happen.

Sick in San Francisco

The paid sick leave ball is back in City Council's court now where it may collapse with a sick thud following Mayor Nutter's veto Tuesday. The measure narrowly passed with nine votes on June 16, and it would take 12 votes to overcome his veto. Advocates promise they'll work to make that happen.

Opponents, who apparently were persuasive,  say the bill would pile yet another cost on businesses which are still struggling. 

That's not how it played out in San Francisco, according to Donna Levitt, manager of the labor standards enforcement office in San Francisco. I interviewed her for my earlier story on this issue. San Francisco is one of the few cities nationally to have passed a paid sick leave ordinance.

"When it was passed, employers said it was going to be a job killer and that the record keeping was onerous," she said. "Our implementation has been very smooth and there are very few complaints."

Levitt said that employers "calculated the cost of this assuming the workers would take all the days they would accrue," but, she said, citing a San Francisco assessment done by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, "they found that workers in San Francisco used the number of paid sick leaves which is typical of the larger workforce not covered by our law." Click here to read the study, here to read the Philadelphia Inquirer story about the veto and here to read my earlier story about the issue. 

The typical worker used three days, fewer than the number allotted in the San Francisco measure  and fewer than the seven days proposed in Philadelphia's bill. Bills in San Francisco and Philadelphia allow employees to call in "sick" to care for ailing family members. 

"Based on four years of experience, we believe that it's good public policy. It’s good for workers, it's good for public health," she said. Her office, she said, gets about 4.5 complaints per month from people who claim they haven't received proper sick pay. San Francisco's bill passed in February 2007.

So how much opposition did it get in San Francisco? Plenty, including protests from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. As it turned out, the provision has not posed a huge problem, said chamber senior vice president Jim Lazarus. That's partly because the city has so many other tough mandates that this one is minor, he said.

Among those opposed here was Garth Weldon, chairman of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association. "I don't know how we're going to handle health care when that comes," said Weldon, co-owner of The Prime Rib, a 225-seat Center City eatery which does not provide sick pay for its hourly employees. Sick pay would be a burden his restaurant can't handle (although it does give its management paid sick time.)

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
About this blog

Jobbing covers the workplace – employment, unemployment, management, unions, legal issues, labor economics, benefits, work-life balance, workforce development, trends and profiles.

Jane M. Von Bergen writes about workplace issues for the Inquirer.

Married to a photographer she met at her college newspaper, Von Bergen has been a reporter since fourth grade, covering education, government, retailing, courts, marketing and business. “I love the specific detail that tells the story,” she says.

Reach Jane M. at jvonbergen@phillynews.com.

Jane M. Von Bergen Inquirer Staff Writer
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