Today in my Finance and Culture Committee meeting, we heard the last of five reports to the Seattle City Council about Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance. The Ordinance, when passed in 2011, called for an evaluation of its impacts on employees and employers. The Seattle Office of City Auditor contracted with the University of Washington (UW) to evaluate early outcomes. The study can be found here, and below, I’ve identified some highlights.
- One year after the Ordinance took effect, 83% of surveyed employers were aware of it.
- 96% of employers offer some paid leave to their full-time employees.
- Only 62% of employers cover their part-time employees. (Under the law if you perform more than 240 hours of work in Seattle within a calendar year you should accrue paid sick and safe leave).
- 39% of employers across all tier sizes report that they either do not cover part-and full-time workers or fail to provide the minimum required hours of leave to their full-time workers.
- 70% of tier 3 employers (i.e. large employers with 250+ FTE employees) did not offer enough paid leave to meet ordinance requirements.
- Of the 33 employees interviewed six to eighteen months after the ordinance went into effect, only 11 were able to describe PSST requirements; 7 expressed limited or vague awareness; and 15 were unaware of the ordinance.
- Of the 16 newly eligible workers interviewed over a year after the Ordinance took effect, 12 still reported having no such leave even though the size and location of their employer suggests they should be covered.
- The majority of workers who reported no access to PSST worked in food and accommodations or retail sectors.
- Anecdotal cost information puts the cost of providing leave at about four tenths of one percent of total revenue.
- 70% of employers support the Ordinance.
When the Council passed the law in 2011, only San Francisco, Washington DC, and and Connecticut had similar laws. After our passage here, Portland, New York City, Newark and Jersey City passed Paid Sick and Safe Leave ordinances.
The Ordinance is enforced via a compliant-driven system with potential penalties for employers found to be in violation. This year, the Council and Mayor will be reviewing how we enforce paid sick and safe leave as well as other Labor Standards. During the 2014 Budget deliberations, the Council voted to co-convene with the Mayor an advisory group to assist the City in gaining greater compliance by businesses with labor standards. The Council at the same time also voted to allocate funds to support the work of this advisory group. The advisory group includes representatives of business and labor, and academic experts. Its main focus is to make recommendations to improve compliance with laws addressing wage theft, paid sick and safe time, and use of background checks. Current discussions and efforts on minimum wage, and any ensuing City ordinances on this topic will also figure into the work of the Advisory Group.
This group has its first meeting tomorrow. By July 31, 2014, the advisory group will make recommendations on issues, including:
- Providing advice on the City’s role in gaining compliance with labor standards;
- Identifying the most pressing gaps in City enforcement work and priorities for enforcement;
- Recommending the most effective enforcement strategies, including the use of community-based outreach efforts and public information marketing strategies; and
- Providing ideas for improving the coordination of enforcement efforts by City departments.
The Executive will then submit a written report to all Councilmembers on the advisory group’s findings and Executive responses by September 8, so that the Council and Mayor will have time to propose necessary funding to implement the recommendations. Earlier this month I visited San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. I hope that the Advisory Group takes a good look at how it functions. I believe it shows great promise as a model that includes proactive enforcement, as well as contracting with a community-based nonprofit to do outreach and education. Most importantly, I believe that employees’ complaints about violations, should not result in an investigation that might result in an individual employee being singled out for retaliation.