Portland proposes sick time policy

Commissioner Amanda Fritz

Commissioner Amanda Fritz

In the midst of an intense flu season and a growing number of local norovirus outbreaks, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz has proposed a solution to a community problem that puts every Portlander’s health at risk, reduces workplace productivity, and affects the economic security of working Portlanders (and the families they support) who aren’t allowed to earn paid sick time while they work.  Without paid sick time, responsible people are forced to make an impossible choice: work sick for needed income or to keep a job and infect clients and customers or stay home to recover faster, see a doctor when needed, or care for a sick child.

Commissioner Fritz’s proposed sick time policy would enable nearly all working Portlanders to earn a reasonable five days of paid sick time per year, accrued over time as they work. Andrea Paluso, Executive Director of Family Forward Oregon and coordinator of the Everybody Benefits Coalition, sees the proposal as a very strong start:

 In the many months we have been working with the community to find a workable, effective solution to our sick days problem, we determined that the best policy is one that makes it possible for the most workers to stay home when they need to care for their own or a family member’s health and when public health officials suggest they stay home to reduce contagion – as they are with this year’s intense flu season. The negative public health effects are very real when 4 in 10 private-sector workers – and a shocking 8 in 10 food service workers – don’t earn a single sick day.

Importantly, the proposal was crafted with employer input and there is business support for this type of policy. That’s important since employers are obvious stakeholders – in addition to workers and families and kids and public health professionals. Several of Portland’s talented and prominent restaurateurs understand the problem (which is worst in their industry) and see a unique opportunity for their increasingly renowned food scene to be even more remarkable. They also feel a responsibility to the many people  – employees and customers alike – who bring their restaurants to life:

 A lack of paid sick days is not good for the people we depend on to bring our culinary visions to the customer’s tables (free of germs). It’s not good for the families who depend on our employees for care and financial support.  And it’s not good for our customers, who deserve to be served safe food by healthy people who are treated well in return for their labor.

UPCOMING EVENTS: The Portland city council is holding a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 31st at 2 PM in city hall and a community information session on Wednesday, Jan. 23rd from 6 – 8 PM in the Portland Building.

Read the draft ordinance here.

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