Politics & Government

Tacoma council to talk about sick leave

Tacoma businesses and nonprofits would be required to provide at least three days of sick leave for employees who earn the time off under a proposal the City Council will review Tuesday.

The plan goes further than the ideas Mayor Marilyn Strickland shared with a business group in October in at least one respect: It would require employers to extend paid sick leave to union workers as well as employees without union affiliation.

In addition, workers could claim paid time off to escape domestic violence or a stalker.

City Councilman Ryan Mello said Friday the draft is a start in the right direction. But he said he thinks three days of paid time off is not enough for a single, low-wage parent who might have to take care of a sick child at the last minute.

“Is a 6-year-old going to sit at home by herself?” he said. “(Workers) need time, not just for themselves when they get sick, but they also need it when a family member or their kid gets sick.”

Mello said he also wants to ensure employees are not punished for using sick leave. He said some companies will issue demerits for employees who call in sick. Other companies won’t allow employees to take a paid sick day unless the employee first stays home without pay for a day or two, he said.

Washington law doesn’t require that businesses offer paid sick leave. Seattle became the first city in the state — and the third in the nation — to mandate paid sick leave in 2011.

Seattle’s sick leave law requires all businesses with five or more employees to provide at least five days of sick leave. Businesses employing 250 or more full-time workers are required to provide at least nine days per year of earned sick leave.

Tacoma’s ordinance would only apply to businesses within the city limits, not those headquartered elsewhere with employees here.

Some business representatives have opposed a formal policy, saying they are concerned about potential lawsuits and paperwork.

The council will discuss the proposal during a Committee of the Whole meeting.

The meeting will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Room 16 of the Tacoma Municipal Building North, 733 Market St. A vote on the issue has not been scheduled.