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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane City Council votes to require employers to provide sick leave

Most workers in Spokane will get three or five paid sick days under legislation approved by the Spokane City Council.

“It is an accepted value,” Spokane Council President Ben Stuckart said. “We just need to codify it.”

The council voted Monday night to require most businesses to provide paid sick leave time. Businesses with fewer than 10 workers must provide three days of sick leave, and businesses with 10 or more must provide five days.

More than 50 people testified on the proposal, the vast majority in favor.

The final proposal was approved 6-1. Only Councilman Mike Fagan opposed it.

The ordinance will next go to Mayor David Condon, who said Monday he will veto the legislation and questioned how much it will cost the city to enforce. But the council needs only five votes to override a veto.

Under the proposed rule, businesses would have to provide employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work until they reach 24 hours or 40 hours, depending on the size of the business.

Construction workers would be exempt from the requirement, as would those in work-study positions and seasonal and temporary employees. The leave could be used for sickness, bereavement, to take care of a sick loved one or to deal with a domestic violence situation.

The rule was opposed by Greater Spokane Incorporated and the Downtown Spokane Partnership. The 12 people who spoke against the policy agreed the policy was an onerous regulation for local businesses.

Jim Breidenbach, owner of Craftsmen Construction, spoke against the proposal for being wrong “on so many levels.”

“The arrogance that is displayed by any governmental municipality dictating to any business owner how they should run their company is totally against the free enterprise system,” Breidenbach said. “It’s wrong that we’re mandated how we can run our company.”

Breidenbach acknowledged that his business would not be affected, since it is a construction company, but he still opposed the policy.

Councilman Jon Snyder, in his last meeting before he leaves the council for a new state job, attempted to amend the proposal to increase sick leave to five days for all businesses, but his proposal failed on a 3-4 vote with him, Stuckart and Councilwoman Lori Kinnear in support.

Later, Councilwoman Karen Stratton’s motion to increase the sick leave to five days for workers employed by businesses 10 or more employees passed on a 5-2 vote, with only Snyder and Fagan opposed.

“We’re making it complicated,” Snyder said. “We’re adding exemptions.”

The council approved a change giving new businesses an extra year to comply with the rule. Only Snyder opposed the amendment, arguing that it watered down the regulation.

They also decided to strike language allowing businesses to require a doctor’s note to take paid sick leave. Only Fagan opposed the change.

A City Council report using census data estimates more than 41,000 workers in Spokane have jobs that don’t provide paid sick leave.