Albuquerque city council proposes new sick leave bill after voter rejection

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After Albuquerque voters narrowly rejected a “sick leave” bill last year, city councilors have a new version of the controversial bill — this time with a few tweaks.

It’s an ordinance that sparked a lot of debate in the run-up to the October election last year. Should Albuquerque employers be required to give paid sick leave to employees?

Voters ultimately said “no” by less than a percentage point. Critics thought there were too many loopholes in the ordinance.

However, an amended version is back on the table and people are weighing in.

“I believe everyone deserves sick days,” said resident Debbie Bry in support of the bill.

“If you get the flu or something, you’re not planning on it so you still need to pay your bills; you need that money,” said resident Hector Carret also in support of the bill.

City Council President Ken Sanchez is pushing for that safety net as the University of New Mexico launches a study on the pros and cons of the new draft.

Sanchez still wants businesses with more than 50 employees to provide sick leave to workers who clock at least 20 hours per week.

A new draft of the ordinance now clarifies eligibility, types of sick leave, employer compliance, and violation penalties.

Major changes include that paid sick leave now starts accruing on the hire date — one hour for every 40 hours worked — and is capped at five sick days. Sick leave becomes available after about four months on the job, and employers don’t have to pay the unused sick time if a worker is fired.

This targets a big issue raised by business owners, including Len Romano who voted against the old version of the ordinance.

“We give our employees four weeks a year time off and paid sick leave is included in that,” said Romano.

However, Sanchez says the ordinance is still a work in progress, seeking a balance for both sides.

The new draft of the ordinance was supposed to be reviewed by a city council committee at a meeting Monday night. However, Sanchez says it’s being postponed for 90 days while the UNM study takes place.

Unlike the last version that was voted down, the new draft only needs to get approved by the city council and mayor to become law.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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