Spokane may soon be the first 2016 PSL jurisdiction. Just 11 days into the New Year, its City Council passed a PSL ordinance. (Ordinance No. C35300). The mayor has vowed to veto it but the Council passed the ordinance by a wider margin than needed to override that veto.

The rhythm of the ordinance is very familiar.  For employers with at least 10 employees, employees accrue one hour of PSL per 30 hours of work to an annual maximum of 40 hours. Employees at smaller employers accrue up to 24 hours.

Two aspects of this ordinance got my attention.  PSL may be used for bereavement relating to the death of a family member. Tacoma, WA and Oregon allow use for this reason as well.

The other is a “[w]hereas” clause in the preamble which states that “studies on implementation of paid sick leave policies around the country….show repeatedly that business profitability is affected to a very small degree by implementation of paid sick leave laws.” The clause cites studies of three PSL laws: San Francisco, Connecticut and Washington D.C.  When I read “studies show,” my skepticism level rises.

Most studies of whether PSL has been effective in achieving its goals have been done by advocacy groups who, by definition, support a particular position. In 2014, The Freedom Foundation, a think-tank, studied the PSL laws in four jurisdictions that had been studied–the three listed in the Spokane ordinance as well as Seattle.  The Foundation’s 48 page report, a study of the studies, so to speak, is a must read for anyone interested in evaluating the studies that have been done, regardless of your position on PSL laws. Some of the conclusions from the Foundation report include:

  • “Most employers provide their employees with paid sick leave voluntarily…”
  • “The businesses actually affected by sick leave mandates … experience moderate negative consequences as they seek to comply. Consumers are hit with higher prices. Employees are likely to see reductions in pay, hours or other benefits…[S]ome businesses will still face reduced profitability.”
  • “The promised benefits of mandatory sick leave laws fail to materialize. Turnover remains unaffected and the alleged savings for employers are illusory.”
  • ‘[N]o evidence indicates that paid sick leave regulations noticeably reduces presenteeism,” i.e. the number of employees coming to work sick.

PSL is a fairly new development. I suspect that many more studies will be done in the years to come. Regardless of the outcome of those studies concerning the effectiveness of PSL in achieving its goals, PSL is here to stay.