City floating idea of mandatory paid sick time for workers

City floating idea of mandatory paid sick time for workers
KATU file photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Portland City Commissioners began taking public input Thursday on a proposal that would give city employees and those at private businesses mandatory paid sick time.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz is behind the idea, which would give employees of the city and private companies up to 40 hours of sick time a year. Employees who work 240 hours a year - which is about 5 hours a week - would also qualify for some sick leave, so part-time workers would be included.

Businesses that have six or more employees would have to provide paid sick time off under the proposal. Businesses that give employees at least 40 hours of sick time off each year would not be required to give any additional time off.

Workers who testified before the City Council on Thursday said they are forced to choose between their health and their paycheck. And they said they often worry they will lose their jobs if they stay home sick.

Dozens of business owners showed up at City Hall as well. They said if the ordinance passes, they will not be able to handle the expense and might be forced to make other cuts.

Public input will be weighed from now through Feb. 27. The city will also be forming a task force to address any issues that might come up surrounding the proposal.

A council vote is expected on March 6 and those backing the plan hope the changes can take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. The city also hopes to lobby the state legislature to change state law.