Feelings mixed about Seattle sick leave ordinance

Feelings mixed about Seattle sick leave ordinance »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Thousands of people can't wait for it to start, while others wish it didn't even exist.

It's Seattle's new paid sick leave ordinance.

After spending 33 years at a factory job without paid sick leave, Martin Gallegos is ready for the new ordinance.

"Well, we think it's a good idea," Gallegos said.

Most workers think like Gallegos and are thrilled to be getting a new benefit at work. So do many employers, such as the owners of Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, which started working on a paid sick leave policy even before the ordinance.

"This is one of those things that was a no brainer for us," said Tutta Bella's Joe Fugere.

The new policy mandates companies offer paid sick time. The number of days is based on the equivalent of full time employees. For instance, Tutta Bella has 170 employees, but the majority work part time. So, using the city's formula of adding up hours worked, it has the equivalent of 90 full timers.

"This is one of those things that if you listen to your heart you know that this is the right thing," Fugere said.

But many others say it's just asking too much.

The owner of Lottie's Lounge said the new rule will cost him about $7,000 a year.

"I'm salting money away as best I can. But basically I' going to have to trim some hours and that means I'm going to have work more than I already do," said small-business owner Beau Hebert.

And it's not just the small businesses that this new ordinance will impact, either. Some who work at large companies have gone without paid time.

"Your body, you get worn out and you need a day off because you're sick, and when you do get sick and you stay home you don't get paid," Gallegos said.

The city's office of Civil Rights, which is tasked with implementing the new policy, is fielding a lot of questions and will continue to work with business to get good policies in place.

"I'm not saying there will be no impact, but I think the impact will actually be less than people fear," said the Elliott Bronstein of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.

City officials say they are not going to penalize any business that doesn't have a policy in place September 1 and it will continue to work with businesses to help them get it done.

More information on the ordinance is available online.