New report reveals ‘unintended consequences’ of Seattle’s paid sick leave law

Aug 7, 2013, 5:36 AM | Updated: 9:27 am
LISTEN:

Another report claims that some small businesses are already making moves, such as raising prices, to compensate for increased costs linked to Seattle’s mandatory paid sick leave law.

The law, which took effect last September, requires businesses with more than four employees to provide paid time off. The Employment Policies Institute, a non-profit group that studies employment issues, is the latest to survey business owners about the impact.

Even though the sick leave law applies to about 11,000 businesses in Seattle, Research Director Michael Saltsman says this survey focused on 301 service industry businesses – essentially restaurants.

The survey asked about the impact of the law on the cost of doing business.

“About a third of the businesses reported no increase in the business cost, a little more than one in four, 27 percent, said it was causing a big increase and some group in between said small increase,” Saltsman said.

The EPI survey found that businesses take different approaches to make up for higher costs associated with the new law.

“About one in five businesses had taken some steps to basically offset those costs, and that was either raising prices, reducing staff, or increasing the costs of other benefits or eliminating benefits,” Saltsman reported.

The sick leave law was written, in part, based on the notion that workers should not have to show up on the job when they’re sick. The survey asked employers about the “sick worker” issue. Saltsman said 83 percent responded that the problem was “not serious at all.”

“I do think that’s a pretty interesting statistic just because it suggested that the case that was being made in the run-up to the law being passed that employees were coming to work sick all time and that customers were in danger was, to put it charitably, was exaggerated,” concluded Saltsman.

Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata sponsored the sick leave law and calls this new survey biased.

“You’re dealing with folks in that industry that fought this legislation, they did not want it, and one of the things they kept saying was ‘Oh, our workers are fine, they never take sick leave,'” recalled Licata. “Well, they probably didn’t because they didn’t want to lose their job.”

Saltsman conceded that EPI receives support from the business community.

After the law was approved, restaurateur Ethan Stowell told KIRO Radio’s John Curley he was “okay” with the paid sick leave mandate.

“I’d rather have people take it (the day) off and get better and come back to work strong. I’m fine with that,” he said. “I think all that’s gonna shake down as to how it’s going to financially impact restaurants, but I’m not too worried about it myself.”

Licata said the survey is speculative, when it comes to the financial impact on business of the sick leave law.

“Fifty-six percent said it would increase their cost of doing business. That’s a ‘would’ statement. It doesn’t say it did. And you’re asking someone who, again, has a vested interest that would not necessarily want to support this legislation,” argued Licata.

A report last month from the University of Washington found that about two-thirds of employers were not complying with the new law, so far. A large minority of businesses, about four in ten, were not aware of the law.

This just-released survey talks about “unintended consequences” of mandatory sick leave, but conceded that it’s too early to draw conclusions about the impact of the law on business.

Licata said the law is working but admits it might need adjustment. The city, he said, obviously must do a better job educating both employers and employees. The city’s Office of Civil Rights is tracking the law and its impacts. Another city-sponsored survey gets underway this month.

Local News

Whatcom County...
MyNorthwest Staff

Sumas residents urged to evacuate, National Guard expected in Whatcom County on Sunday

The Washington State National Guard has been pre-deployed in Whatcom County ahead of this weekend’s projected storm systems.
2 days ago
police, Lake City seattle...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Person seriously injured in shooting Friday inside Tacoma Mall

A person is in serious conditions after they were shot in the middle of the Tacoma Mall food court on Friday.
3 days ago
Sawant recall...
Dalton Day

A recall Sawant PAC has been released from campaign contribution limit

The Washington State Public Disclosure Commission has released a recall Councilmember Kshama Sawant PAC from its campaign contribution limits.
3 days ago
hand sanitizer...
Dalton Day

COVID-era artifact, emergency-produced hand sanitizer, comes to an end for local distillery

Copperworks Distilling Company has been ordered to shut down its manufacturing of hand sanitizer, which provided critical health care supplies.
3 days ago
COVID variant...
Charlie Harger

‘Bellwether bond’ down over COVID-variant concerns, ‘sending strong signal,’ says local analyst

Analyst Mike Alfstad of Seattle's Alfstad Capital clarifies how the newly identified COVID variant has affected the 10-Year Treasury yield.
3 days ago
holidays, seattle, christmas lights...
MyNorthwest Staff

24 things to do in Seattle for the holidays

There's plenty to do in and around the greater Seattle region to help spread holiday cheer through December and into the new year.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
...

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]
...

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
New report reveals ‘unintended consequences’ of Seattle’s paid sick leave law